COVID-19 vaccines give us our best shot at beating the pandemic. In time, everyone will have a chance to get one. But in the meantime, if you have concerns about what’s in them, these facts may give you peace of mind.
Vaccines contain ingredients that help your body build immunity against a specific virus. However, not all vaccines have the same ingredients.
The two COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the U.S. are the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. They are a newer type of vaccine, called mRNA vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
They don’t use live or weakened viruses to build immunity. Instead, they use messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA instructs cells to make a harmless piece of the virus’s genetic material called the spike protein, which is found on the surface of the coronavirus. This teaches the immune system to recognize and fight the real virus. But because the vaccine doesn’t contain any live virus, there’s no way it can give you COVID-19.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also lack some other ingredients some people may be concerned about. They do not have:
• Preservatives, such as thimerosal (which contains an organic form of mercury). Most vaccines do not use thimerosal or mercury. And the type of mercury found in the few vaccines that do have thimerosal is not likely to build up in the body. In tiny amounts, it is safe in vaccines.
• Formaldehyde, used to help make some vaccines.
• Eggs, latex, or antibiotics. (Some people are allergic to these!)
• Microchips. Scientists are not putting microchips in the vaccines to track us. That’s a myth. In fact, it’s not even possible to do so.
Some side effects have occurred with COVID-19 vaccines. Most are minor, like a sore arm. A few people have had more serious allergic reactions, but this is very rare. CDC says that if you have had an allergic reaction to PEG or polysorbate, you should not get an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. You can help make your shot even safer by telling your provider if you:
• Have any allergies or other health problems.
• Have ever had an allergic reaction to a vaccine.
CDPHP members can visit our COVID-19 information and resources page for the latest updates.
This blog is verified by a CDPHP Medical Director.
Anthony Marinello, MD, PhD, joined CDPHP in 2018 and serves as Executive Vice President, Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer. Board-certified in family medicine, Dr. Marinello spent more than 30 years practicing medicine, most recently at CapitalCare Family Practice in Clifton Park, NY.