coronavirus vaccine ingredients

Key Facts


  • Both COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna, use genetic material (mRNA) rather than the virus particles to generate an immune response. 
  • These vaccines do not comprise the inactivated virus, live virus, or any preservatives.
  • Both vaccines contain similar kinds of ingredients.
  • The genetic material mRNA in the vaccine falls apart naturally in a couple of days after your body has had time to create antibodies against the novel coronavirus (SARS CoV-2). 


All of us have been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine for a really long time, almost a year. Now that it's finally developed and is in the trial, most of us want to know more about what ingredients are in the vaccine and will it work well for us, isn’t it? Read the post further and get to know everything about the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients.


Both the vaccines are mRNA vaccines and are going to be released in the United States and other parts of the world soon. They use laboratory-made mRNA (messenger RNA) strands to produce an immune system response in your body. After you get vaccinated, your immune system will quickly create specialized proteins or antibodies that can ward off the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. 


The RNA is encapsulated in both COVID-19 vaccines in a similar way, which demands the use of polyethylene glycol. Polyethylene glycol is a chemical that is believed to trigger allergic reactions in some people. 


Research says that polyethylene glycol - a polymer or a substance containing very large molecules - is mostly safe to use; sensitivity is likely and could lead to allergic reactions.  


What Ingredients Are There In The Vaccine?

There are two types of vaccines including the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine. Let us now discuss the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients in detail:


The Pfizer Vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine is known in the research literature by the name BNT162b2. As its ingredients fall apart very quickly at room temperature, it needs to be stored at -80 ℃ (-112 ℉) and then defrosted and amalgamated with saline water before it is administered to patients.


It is given in two doses, nearly 21 days apart. Each of the doses is 0.3 mL and incorporates the following COVID-19 vaccine ingredients:


Genetic material: The Pfizer vaccine contains copies of a supremely-purified, single-stranded messenger called mRNA. This mRNA incorporates the genetic code for a particular portion of the novel coronavirus. You might have come across the pictures of the virus responsible for causing COVID-19. It has numerous spikes on its surface called spike proteins.


The mRNA holds genetic code for a specific part of the spike protein referred to as the receptor-binding domain. The virus employs the receptor-binding protein (RBD) to bind to your cells when you get infected. The Pfizer vaccine aims at that area directly by instructing your body to produce antibodies against it. 


The vaccine uses the genome of the novel coronavirus as a template to produce mRNA in a laboratory apparatus. 


Lipid bubbles: As we have discussed, the vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA), which is a genetic material that our cell reads to produce proteins. This mRNA is fragile and would be chopped into pieces by our natural enzymes if injected directly into your body. Pfizer wraps the messenger RNA in fat bubbles composed of lipid nanoparticles to protect and support the vaccine. As the mRNA is fragile, it can fall apart very quickly at room temperature. 


The Pfizer vaccine contains four types of lipids, including:


  • ALC-0315 = (4-hydroxybutyl) azanediyl)bis (hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
  • ALC-0159 = 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide
  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine
  • Cholesterol


ALC-0315 is the main lipid substance used in the vaccine. All other lipid ingredients listed above are used in limited amounts to stabilize the bubbles. 


Saline solution: Research says that saline water works better than plain water for injections. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine uses a phosphate buffer solution (PBS), which is a common type of saline. If you work in biomedical research, you may be very familiar with this PBS. It is generally used in medications, solutions, and injections containing live cells. It keeps the salt levels and the pH levels of the mixture comparable to that of our bodies so as to make it more comfortable for us when we receive it. 


The liquid part of the Pfizer vaccine contains:


  • Sucrose
  • Phosphate buffer solution
  • Water


All these are common ingredients, which are primarily salt and water dissolved in water. 


Also Read: COVID 19 Hotspots In The US- Places Where You Need To Be More Careful


The Moderna Vaccine

The Moderna vaccine is known in the research literature as mRNA-1273. It can be stored in a normal freezer temperature for about six months, making it better than the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to ship and store. Also, health specialists don’t need to be diluted before administering to patients. 


Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine is also given in two doses. Each dose is 0.5 mL and needs to be given about 28 days apart. The Moderna vaccine incorporates the following ingredients:


Genetic material: The Moderna vaccine also has messenger RNA (mRNA), which contains the genetic code for the novel coronavirus. Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine also uses the genome of the virus, although the mRNA contained in the two vaccines are somewhat different. Each company made slight amendments to the genetic code of the mRNA they used so the vaccines would generate a more potent immune response. Moderna’s mRNA is also created in a laboratory apparatus rather than in live cells.


Lipid bubbles: Again, the pieces of mRNA are wrapped in a lipid or fat coating. The Moderna vaccine’s recipe for these lipid bubbles have been in use for several years, and the details are copyrighted. It contains the following ingredients:




1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC)



Like in the Pfizer vaccine, lipid bubbles in the Moderna vaccine also help protect and support the mRNA in the vaccine.


Saline solution: Instead of the phosphate buffer solution, this vaccine uses a tris buffer, which is another common medical ingredient. It aims to make the pH levels of the vaccine close to our bodies. The liquid part of the Moderna vaccine incorporates:


  • Tromethamine (tris)
  • Sodium acetate
  • Sucrose (sugar)
  • Water


Are Any Of The Vaccine Ingredients Toxic?

None of the COVID-19 vaccine ingredients is anticipated to be dangerous or toxic at limited amounts as planned for the vaccines. mRNA is not toxic by itself. In fact, all plants and animals have mRNA in their cells. 


What made vaccines develop so quickly? Well, the scientists were already studying mRNA to be used in vaccines for protection against some other diseases, and so substantial research has already been done on the ingredients used in the vaccine. 


You are unlikely to get the novel coronavirus from getting the vaccine because it uses genetic code in place of the dead or inactivated virus to produce an immune response. 


What Allergic Reactions Can The COVID-19 Vaccine Cause?

Some studies suggest that getting the vaccine may cause you to develop a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Although anaphylaxis from vaccines is extremely rare, it accounts for about 1.3 cases per million.


In rare cases, people may also have allergic reactions, which can be mild to life-threatening. It's advised to get the vaccination in a hospital or clinic where anaphylaxis can be treated. 


There are considerably fewer chances of developing allergic reactions, but it can make some people react differently. This is because when you take any medication or vaccine, your immune system considers it as a threat and can generate a response that can activate your allergy cells. 


Proper Planning is the Key

If you have some kind of allergy, this doesn’t imply that you should refrain from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. Share the details of your allergy with your healthcare provider and let them decide whether you should receive it or not.


If you tend to develop symptoms away from the vaccination site, it could be a systemic reaction. That’s the reason why it's recommended to have a body inventory before getting the shot. Note your allergy symptoms for the day (if any), and share them with your doctor. This will help your healthcare provider make comparisons and draw conclusions after you have been injected.