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COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients

Believe it or not, some people don’t want to get a COVID-19 vaccine because of their ingredients.

I know all of the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients and I'm fully vaccinated.
I know all of the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients and I’m fully vaccinated.

Or, more likely, what they think are ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccines.

COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients

Of course, there are no ingredients in the COVID-19 vaccines that should scare anyone away from getting vaccinated and protected, unless they had a severe allergy to one of those ingredients.

And surprisingly, most COVID-19 vaccines have very few ingredients.

So what are those ingredients?

“None of the vaccines contain eggs, gelatin, latex, or preservatives.”

Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States

It depends on the vaccine…

But as you will see, COVID-19 vaccines do indeed contain few ingredients and mostly consist of the active ingredient plus a buffer (helps resist changes in pH), stabilizer, and salts, which act as ionic compounds to adjust tonicity (a measure of the effective osmotic pressure gradient) and maintain osmolarity (a measure of solute concentration).

These extra, inactive ingredients, keep the components in the vaccine from separating, settling, and help maintain their potency during transport and storage.

Pfizer-BioNTech (mRNA) Vaccine Ingredients

In addition to the nucleoside-modified mRNA encoding the viral spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2, the active ingredient, the Pfizer COVID-19 contains some inactive ingredients, including:

  • 2[(polyethylene glycol (PEG))-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • cholesterol – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate) – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • sodium chloride – salt that acts as an ionic compound
  • monobasic potassium phosphate – buffer
  • potassium chloride – buffer
  • dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate – ionic compound
  • sucrose – sugar that acts as a stabilizer and cryoprotectant

Of these ingredients, PEG is the one that is presumed to be causing the small, extra risk of anaphylaxis in some people.

Moderna (mRNA) Vaccine Ingredients

Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine contains a nucleoside-modified mRNA encoding the viral spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 as an active ingredient, and several inactive ingredients:

  • PEG2000-DMG: 1,2-dimyristoyl-rac-glycerol, methoxypolyethylene glycol – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • cholesterol – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • SM-102: heptadecan-9-yl 8-((2-hydroxyethyl) (6-oxo-6-(undecyloxy) hexyl) amino) octanoate – lipids to protect the mRNA
  • tromethamine – part of the buffer solution
  • tromethamine hydrochloride – part of the buffer solution
  • acetic acid – buffer
  • sodium acetate – ionic compound
  • sucrose – sugar that acts as a stabilizer

Also like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine contains PEG.

Janssen (viral vector) Vaccine Ingredients

The active ingredient in the Janssen vaccine is a recombinant, replication-incompetent Ad26 vector, encoding a stabilized variant of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) protein. The inactive ingredients in this vaccine include:

  • polysorbate 80 – non-ionic surfactant
  • 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin – enhances solubility
  • citric acid monohydrate – buffer
  • trisodium citrate dihydrate – buffer
  • sodium chloride – ionic compound
  • ethanol – stabilizer

So no PEG, and while cross-reactive hypersensitivity between PEG and polysorbates can occur, you may be able to get a vaccine with one if you are allergic to the other.

The Janssen vaccine is produced using PER.C cells.

AstraZeneca (viral vector) Vaccine Ingredients

Not yet approved in the United States, the AstraZeneca vaccine contains a chimpanzee adenovirus encoding the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein (ChAdOx1-S) as an active ingredient, and several inactive ingredients:

  • L-Histidine – buffer
  • L-Histidine hydrochloride monohydrate – buffer
  • magnesium chloride hexahydrate – stabilizer
  • polysorbate 80 (E 433) – non-ionic surfactant
  • ethanol – stabilizer
  • sucrose – stabilizer
  • sodium chloride – ionic compound
  • disodium edetate (dihydrate) – EDTA, a stabilizer

Again, no PEG, but like many vaccines, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine contains polysorbate 80.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is produced using HEK-293 cells.

Novavax Vaccine Ingredients

Not yet approved in the United States, the Novavax vaccine contains a recombinant full-length SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein with Matrix-M1 adjuvant as active ingredients, and several inactive ingredients:

  • polysorbate 80 – non-ionic surfactant
  • ? will get more details as this vaccine gets closer to being approved

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is produced using insect cells.

Are You Allergic to Any of the COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients

Of course, the most important reason to know the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccines is so you can be alerted if you might have a severe allergy to any of these components?

Are you allergic to sodium chloride (salt), sucrose (sugar), cholesterol, or acetic acid (vinegar is up to 8% acetic acid)?

Probably not.

What if you have had a reaction to a previous non-COVID-19 vaccine and you aren’t sure to which ingredient you are allergic?

“People with a reaction to a vaccine or injectable therapy that contains multiple components, one of which is a vaccine component, but in whom it is unknown which component elicited the immediate allergic reaction, have a precaution to vaccination.”

Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States

Does the vaccine or drug to which you had a reaction have any ingredients in common with the COVID-19 vaccine that you plan to get? If so, but you know actually know if you are allergic to that ingredient or another in the original vaccine to which you had the reaction, then you would want to discuss the risks and benefits of getting vaccinated with your provider. And the risks of not getting vaccinated – remaining at risk to get COVID-19.

“People with a contraindication to mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (including due to a known PEG allergy): Consideration may be given to vaccination with Janssen COVID-19 vaccine. People who have received one mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose but for whom the second dose is contraindicated should wait at least 28 days after the mRNA vaccine dose to receive Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.”

Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States

Of the ingredients in these vaccines, the one that might lead to a severe allergic reaction, although that still occurs rarely, is PEG.

What about polysorbate 80?

“As a change from previous versions of the guidance, known polysorbate allergy is no longer a contraindication to mRNA vaccination; however, known polysorbate allergy is a contraindication to Janssen COVID-19 vaccine and thus, a precaution to mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.”

Interim Clinical Considerations for Use of COVID-19 Vaccines Currently Authorized in the United States

Many vaccines contain polysorbate 80 and they don’t have any extra risk of severe allergic reactions.

And if you aren’t sure if it is safe for you to get a COVID-19 vaccine because of your past history of severe allergic reactions, then you can always see an allergist for further help.

What to Know About COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients

What’s missing from the COVID-19 vaccines?

No microchips.

No thimerosal.

No antibiotics.

No formaldehyde.

COVID-19 vaccines don’t even contain aluminum, not that it would be a problem if they did…

Are you ready to get vaccinated and protected?

More on COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients

1 thought on “COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients”

  1. Given all the novelty drugs listed here are emergency approved only and FDA trials don’t complete until 2023 then where are the control volunteers recognised?

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