Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Term Paper


School of Unrestricted Education

Primary Advisor

Dr. Grace Veach


Throughout history, there exists no bigger killer than disease. For centuries, families have fought against sickness and death, and ancient culture has spent thousands of years developing their own methods for healing. In the most recent years, the field of medicine has greatly expanded, allowing for cures and medicine to be greatly distributed to the general public. Millions of lives have been saved, and today society can live without fear of lurking diseases snatching away loved ones with a blink of an eye. This senior thesis focuses on the development of vaccines made from the WI-38 cell line. This cell line was developed from a 1960s aborted Swedish fetus, which marks the source of controversy. Today, this cell line is primarily used in the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella), varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis A, and a certain rabies vaccine. However, because of the development origin of the vaccine virus, many people refuse to take these life-saving vaccines because they contain the cells of an abortion. So here lies the question – was the use of this cell line necessary, and should they be continued to be used to immunize millions of children and infants every year? With thorough research and careful analysis, the answer is yes. The WI-38 cell line was indeed a necessary foundation in the vaccines’ development. This paper explores the struggles, the disasters, and the controversies that surround the vaccines made from this cell line, and ultimately narrows down on two main facts supporting the usage of these cells: versatility and abundance, and safety. Thoroughly conducted research has proved that the WI-38 cell line to be a safe and reliable method of vaccine growth, which has only been supported by the impact that the cells have left on human history. According to researchers, the WI-38 cells has treated and prevented an estimated 198 million cases of polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, rabies, and hepatitis A in the U.S alone. These cells have offered hope to desperate families, and promises security to those living today. The WI-38 cell line has been a center of controversy ever since it was established. However, when one delves deeper into the research and history behind these cells, they realize that these cells are needed in the development of life-saving vaccines. The vaccines developed from these cells have saved and ensured millions of children’s lives for the past sixty years, and will continue being a life-saving source to years to come.