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Vaccines and SV40

Do vaccines contain SV40?

The polio vaccine used in the late 1950s and early 1960s was contaminated with a monkey virus called simian virus 40 (SV40) present in monkey kidney cells used to grow the vaccine. Recently, investigators found SV40 DNA in biopsy specimens obtained from patients with cancers such as mesothelioma (lung), osteosarcoma (bone) and non-Hodgkins lymphoma (lymph nodes). However, several facts should be noted:

  1. SV40 was present in cancers of people who either had or had not received the polio vaccine that was contaminated with SV40. 
  2. SV40 has not been present in any vaccine since 1963. 
  3. People with cancers who were born after SV40 was no longer a contaminant of the polio vaccine were found to have evidence for SV40 in their cancerous cells. 
  4. Using current techniques, it is difficult to distinguish SV40 virus from other common and related viruses. 
  5. Epidemiologic studies do not show an increased risk of cancers in those who received polio vaccine between 1955 and 1963.

Taken together, these findings do not support the hypothesis that SV40 virus contained in polio vaccines administered before 1963 cause cancers. In addition, available evidence suggests that SV40 virus is likely be transmitted to people by a mechanism other than vaccines.


Ferber D. Monkey virus links to cancer grow stronger. Science 2002;296:1012-1015.

Reviewed by: Paul A. Offit, MD
Date: April 2013

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.
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