The first abortion-tainted vaccine began development in the mid-1960s by Dr. Stanley Plotkin at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia. During a rubella epidemic, some rubella-infected women elected to abort their babies for fear of possible serious risks associated with the disease. Dr. Plotkin isolated the rubella virus in the kidneys of an electively aborted baby. At the same time, Dr. Leonard Hayflick, working independently in the same laboratory, used another aborted baby to develop a fetal strain, W1-38, descendants of which are still used throughout much of the world in the combined MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine commonly given to children and adults. The rubella vaccine developed by Dr. Plotkin was first used in Europe in 1970. In 1979, it was added to Merck’s MMR vaccine.

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