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Covid Vaccine FAQ Part 2: Ingredients

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

Vaccine assembly line

This is Part 2 of a multi-part series. Part 1 covers foundational information about how the vaccines work and common questions / myths related to vaccine technology. The information in this current post may be easier to understand after reading Part 1.

In this section I will cover questions related to vaccine ingredients:

If you would like to navigate directly to the other posts you can click below.


How the Vaccine Works Vaccine Safety Vaccine Efficacy Vaccine Necessity


Vaccine Ingredients

Historically vaccines have contained tiny amounts of somewhat toxic or reactive substances. Some of these were byproducts of the manufacturing process, some were added as preservatives (to keep mold and bacteria from growing in the multi-dose vials), some were added to increase the immune response, and others as key parts of the formulation like emulsifiers or surfactants. Ingredients that are not the active ingredient are called excipients. If you would like to see the excipient ingredient lists for most existing vaccines you can find them in the CDC Pink Book: The Vaccine Excipient List

Q: Many vaccines contain horrible ingredients - how are the Covid vaccines any different?

A: Here's some great news: these new Covid vaccines are some of the cleanest vaccines ever created, especially the new mRNA vaccines. The ingredients are basically water, sugar, salt, the mRNA and the synthetic lipid coating.

Here are the complete list of ingredients in the 3 US vaccines:

Covid vaccines do NOT contain:

  • Coronavirus

  • Egg

  • Latex

  • Aluminum

  • Mercury

  • Thimerosal

  • Formaldehyde

  • Msg

  • Human, fetal or animal tissue or cell fragments

  • Preservatives

  • Microchips

Q: What are synthetic lipid nano-particles and are they safe?

A: First the "what"

Recall that in Part 1 we discussed how fragile and transient the mRNA molecule is. These lipid nano-particles are needed to coat the mRNA while outside the body, and keep it from disintegrating before it is injected. These synthetic lipid nano-particles also help to get the mRNA into our cells (the nano-particle structure is similar to the molecular structure of our cell membranes). Both Pfizer and Moderna lipid combos include:

  • PEG: polyethylene glycol-2000

  • common ingredient in many pharmaceuticals (oral, topical and injected), as well as toothpaste and shampoo.

  • helps stabilize lipids

  • some people develop allergies or other immune responses to PEG

  • DSPC: 1,2 Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine

  • synthetic phosphatidyl choline, used to make a lipid bi-layer similar to our own cell membranes

  • generally recognized as safe (in spite of the terrifying name)

  • Cholesterol

  • molecularly the same as the cholesterol made in our own body

  • safe

Pfizer also includes:

  • 4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)

  • part of the synthetic lipid nano-particle, it promotes the uptake of the mRNA

  • N,N-ditetradecylacetamide

  • part of the synthetic lipid nano-particle, also helps deliver the mRNA into the cell

Moderna also includes:

  • SM-102

  • part of the synthetic lipid nano-particle complex

  • DMG: dimyristoyl glycerol verson of Polyethelene glycol (PEG)

  • same function and issues as PEG above

Johnson and Johnson includes:

  • Polysorbate 80

  • emulsifier, keeps the lipid parts of the vaccine in suspension in the water (prevents it from clumping together

  • some people are allergic

  • slightly toxic

A: Now for the "are they safe" part:

The real answer is: it depends on the dose, and on the particle. A few of the synthetic lipid molecules used to create the mRNA coating for these vaccines can potentially cause oxidative damage to the lipids in our own bodies (including cell membranes, mitochondrial membranes, etc). We all know that oxidative damage is bad, that is why we are supposed to eat foods high in antioxidants, right?

Is this an ideal quality in the lipid nano-particles? No. BUT, it is important to keep it in context. Every moment we are alive, the metabolic processes of even a healthy body produce molecules that cause oxidative damage. It is also worth considering the volume of oxidative damaging molecules we breathe in and swallow every day. The reality is that we are exposed to a LOT of pro-oxidant molecules (many made by our own bodies) all day, every day. We have built-in systems (native antioxidant molecules) to deal with this, and if you con