The letter reads, in part: “The world is facing an unprecedented public health threat that, by some estimates, could claim the lives of over a million Americans. While there are promising treatments in development, we will not know whether these treatments are safe and effective for COVID-19 patients until the clinical trials conclude. The full assessment may take months or years to complete. In the meantime, all biomedical research tools should be made immediately available to develop new treatments, vaccines, and cures to save lives and reduce suffering in the response to COVID-19. Fetal tissue has been critical for the development of other vaccines and therapies for viral pathogens, such as HIV, in the past.”
The Trump Administration first announced that it will restrict federal funding for medical research that uses human fetal tissue from elective abortions in June 2019. Fetal tissue has been used in vaccine research for years. The new policy prohibits all intramural research, or research conducted within the National Institutes of Health (NIH), involving the use of human fetal tissue from elective abortions. Extramural research projects funded by NIH grants involving aborted fetal tissue are now required to go through an additional review process convened by an ethics advisory board. In July 2019, more than 90 science, medical, and academic organizations and institutions, including AIBS, sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar expressing strong opposition to the Administration’s fetal tissue research policy.