Vaccine Ingredients

From antigens and adjuvants to preservatives, learn about common ingredients in vaccines and why they are safe.

What’s in Vaccines?

It is no secret what’s in our vaccines.

A list of ingredients is included on the vaccine’s package insert and can be found on a number of articles on the Internet.

In addition to other ingredients, a vaccine's package insert includes the viral or bacterial antigens that are in the vaccine.
In addition to other ingredients, a vaccine’s package insert includes the viral or bacterial antigens that are in the vaccine.

In addition to the active ingredients, the viral or bacterial antigens in the vaccine that you generate antibodies against, vaccines are made with a number of excipients, inactive substances or manufacturing by-products that are used to produce the vaccine:

  • preservatives – prevent bacterial and fungal contamination in multi-dose vials – thimerosal, 2-phenoxyethanol, phenol
  • adjuvants – help stimulate a stronger immune response so fewer antigens can be used – aluminum salts
  • stabilizers – maintain the potency of the vaccine and include sugars, amino acids, and proteins – lactose, MSG, gelatin
  • cell culture materials – what the vaccine antigens grow in – chicken egg proteins, yeast proteins, fetal bovine serum proteins
  • inactivating materials – kills viruses, inactivates toxins – formaldehyde
  • antibiotics – prevents bacterial contamination of the vaccine – neomycin, polymyxin B
  • suspending fluid – saline, etc.

Many of these excipients are removed from the final vaccine product and might only remain in residual amounts.

What’s Not in Vaccines?

Despite what myths you might have heard or read, many things are not in vaccines:

  • a vaginal spermacide
  • antifreeze
  • thimerosal – almost all vaccines, including over 130,000,000 flu vaccines this year, are thimerosal free!
  • aborted fetal tissue – there is no aborted fetal tissue or fetal parts in any vaccine, although some vaccines are made with fetal embryo fibroblast cells from cell lines that are derived (they can replicate infinitely) from two electively terminated pregnancies in the 1960s
  • Adjuvant 65 – an adjuvant that contained peanut oil that was tested with flu vaccines in the 1960s and continues to be blamed for causing peanut allergies, even though it has never been used in a vaccine

Vaccines are safe. Vaccine ingredients are safe.

What to Know About Vaccine Ingredients

Vaccines contain a number of ingredients that help them work stimulate a good immune response against particular viral and bacterial antigens to protect us against vaccine-preventable diseases.

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