With at least four major players for the COVID-19 vaccine in the market—AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and NovaVax— keeping track of what’s in each formula can seem an impossible task. But for those who could have an allergic reaction to the vaccine they’re given, it’s worth knowing what the COVID vaccine is made of before you roll up your sleeve for the shot.
Vaccine ingredients have stoked the fires of controversy for years, leading to anti-vaccination movements which have not spared the COVID-19 vaccines from analysis and heavy criticism. Immunological and vaccine experts are stating that this vaccine is safe after undergoing multiple trials, despite potential side effects.
STAT News broke down the ingredients of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, showing that it has a condensed list of:
- messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA): This is a section of the coronavirus RNA, which is used to provoke an immune response in the human body, conferring immunity from future infections of that virus. In particular, the section used in the COVID-19 vaccine is the “spike protein,” which only the SARS-Cov-2 has. This protein is what helps a human immune system develop and produce antibodies as an immune response.
- Lipids including ((4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 2 [(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and cholesterol): These lipid droplets, according to Reuters, help transport the working parts of the vaccine to the human body, allowing an immune response to occur.
- Potassium chloride, Sodium chloride, Monobasic potassium phosphate, Dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate, Sucrose: Salts and sugars are common ingredients in food items. They are present in many vaccines, including those for the rotavirus and influenza strains. These salts and sugars help keep the viral particles viable until they are injected.
The FDA lists ingredients of the Moderna vaccine as:
- mRNA: Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, this is a section of COVID-19 virus RNA, which instructs a cell to copy it and produce more of the virus in the human body and produce an immune response.
- lipids (SM-102, polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG], cholesterol, and 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]): These lipids, like the Pfizer vaccine, serve to transport the viral particles.
- Tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride: It’s not clear from FDA explanations of vaccine excipients, or ingredients which make up a very small amount of a vaccine, what Tromethamine does in the COVID-19 vaccine specifically. However, it is an amino alcohol which can be used to balance pH levels in the human body.
- Acetic acid, sodium acetate, and sucrose: These ingredients serve to stabilize the vaccine.
Perhaps the biggest question people have when wondering what the COVID vaccine is made of is whether they should get the vaccine and making sure it’s safe. Here’s how the BBC answered: “There is overwhelming scientific evidence that vaccination is the best defense against serious infections. COVID vaccines appear to stop people getting very sick and could save lives. It is not yet clear how much protection vaccines might give in terms of stopping people from spreading COVID. If they can do this well, vaccinating enough people would stamp out the disease.”
Read more on the coronavirus vaccine:
- FDA exploring half dose vaccines to speed vaccination efforts
- China approves its first coronavirus vaccine
- Can you drink alcohol after getting the coronavirus vaccine?
- Experts warn to be wary of coronavirus vaccine scams
- Should pregnant people get the coronavirus vaccine?
- Are people still hesitant to get the coronavirus vaccine?
- Here’s why skipping the second dose of the COVID vaccine could be dangerous
- If you have severe allergies, you probably shouldn’t get the coronavirus vaccine right away
- Will the coronavirus vaccine have side effects?
- Until now, what’s the quickest a vaccine has ever been developed?