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The National Catholic Bioethics Center
Press Release on GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix
October 30, 2017
© 2020 by The National Catholic Bioethics Center

Press Release on GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix

October 30, 2017


The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) welcomes the approval of a new vaccine for shingles by the Centers for Disease Controls’ Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). What makes GlaxoSmithKline’s new vaccine Shingrix so significant is that it does not depend on the use of cell lines derived from elective abortion as does another vaccine currently on the market (Merck’s Zostavax).

Shingrix is said to be more effective than Zostavax in protecting against “shingles,” a painful and potentially dangerous viral infection that impacts roughly 30 percent of Americans at some point in their lives. Shingrix can prevent painful rashes and lasting nerve damage, and save millions of dollars in health care expenditures.

But Shingrix has additional, ethical significance. Whereas Merck’s Zostavax is made with a cell line derived from an elective abortion in 1970, the production of Shingrix is based in a hamster cell line. The NCBC has long expressed ethical concerns about the dependence of multiple vaccines on cell lines derived from elective abortions. The Pontifical Academy for Life and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith both have called for Catholics to object to these practices and to advocate for alternatives from pharmaceutical companies.

The NCBC commends GlaxoSmithKline for the development of Shingrix and encourages Catholics, and indeed everyone who respects human life and dignity, to make use of ethical alternatives like Shingrix and to redouble their efforts to convince pharmaceutical companies to develop more alternatives in the future.

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) is a nonprofit research and educational institute committed to applying the moral teachings of the Catholic Church to ethical issues arising in health care and the life sciences. The Center has 2,500 members throughout the United States, and provides consultation to hundreds of institutions and individuals seeking its opinion on the appropriate application of Catholic moral teaching to these ethical issues.