You asked, we answered: Are COVID-19 vaccine ingredients public?

Published December 29, 2020

Published

You asked, we answered: Are COVID-19 vaccine ingredients public?

Question

Are COVID-19 vaccine ingredients public? Is there a way to see what they're made of?

Answer from infectious diseases expert David Brett-Major, MD, MPH

Yes, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) provided detailed information about the ingredients in their COVID-19 vaccines to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Read the information provided to the FDA.

The most important ingredient in both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is mRNA. The mRNA tells your cells how to make a protein from the coronavirus. Once your body knows how to make the protein, it can recognize COVID-19 and fight it. Learn more about how mRNA vaccines work.

The Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine uses an adenovirus rather than mRNA. An adenovirus acts as a delivery vehicle, carrying the spike protein from the coronavirus. Adenoviruses, in general, cause a cold or flu-like illness. This adenovirus, though, cannot replicate (reproduce), so the vaccine exposes the spike protein to your immune system without causing an on-going infection. It can be given to those who are immunosuppressed. The adenoviral vector (Ad26) has been used in other investigational vaccines, and approximately 200,000 people have received it.  

The vaccines also contain various salts, fats and other ingredients to help your body use the mRNA. The full list of ingredients are included in the vaccine package inserts:

If you would like to learn more about each ingredient, the National Institutes for Health (NIH) provides a service to explain medicine ingredients called PubChem. We've listed vaccine ingredients in the table below as an example.

 

Pfizer-BioNTech

  • Active ingredient
    • mRNA coding for a form of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2
  • Lipids (fats)
    • (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
    • cholesterol
  • Salts
    • potassium chloride
    • monobasic potassium phosphate
    • sodium chloride
    • dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
  • Other
    • sucrose

Moderna

  • Active ingredient
    • mRNA coding for a form of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2
  • Lipids (fats)
    • SM-102
    • polyethylene glycol [PEG] 2000 dimyristoyl glycerol [DMG]
    • cholesterol
    • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine [DSPC]
  • Salts
    • sodium acetate
  • Other
    • tromethamine
    • tromethamine hydrochloride
    • acetic acid
    • sucrose

Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)

  • Active ingredient
    • Recombinant, replication-incompetent adenovirus type 26 expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein
  • Salts
    • sodium chloride
    • trisodium citrate dehydrate
    • citric acid monohydrate
  • Other
    • ethanol
    • polysorbate-80
    • 2-hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrin (HBCD)

 

These three vaccines do NOT include:

  • Fetal cells
  • Blood products, like red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma or platelets
  • COVID-19 virus cells
  • Mercury
  • Egg
  • Latex stoppers
  • Pork products
  • Preservatives
  • Microchips
    • Sometimes there are microchips on the outside of a syringe, so the health care professional can scan it quickly for digital records. The world's tiniest microchip is still much too big to insert into an immunization shot
Get the latest fact-checked information on COVID-19 vaccines.