We’ve been waiting on a vaccine for COVID-19 for months and it looks like it may still be a year away. So, what goes into whipping up one of these bad boys to protect us from the virus?
Here’s a quick rundown of the most common ingredients in vaccines, according to the FDA, CDC, and various experts:
1. Trace amounts of antibiotics. They’re used in production to kill bacteria. No allergic reaction to any vaccine has ever been traced back to the antibiotics in it.
2. Trace amounts of egg proteins. Some vaccines are grown in eggs. And eggs aren’t sterile, which is one reason antibiotics have to be used. Vaccines for the flu, measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, and yellow fever contain trace amounts of eggs. But there are alternatives now for people with allergies.
3. Gelatin. It’s used as a preservative and a stabilizer. It’s the most common ingredient that causes allergic reactions, but it’s still rare. Only about one in two million people have a serious reaction to it.
4. MSG. Yes, the same stuff that’s in a lot of Chinese food . . . fast food . . . and a ton of junk food, like Doritos. Just like gelatin, it’s used as a preservative and a stabilizer. It got a bad rap in the ’60s when people claimed it caused issues like headaches and nausea. But there’s no evidence it’s dangerous.
5. Aluminum. It makes vaccines more effective by strengthening your immune system’s response. If you add up all the vaccines a baby gets in the first six months, they contain 4.4 milligrams of aluminum. That’s compared to 7 milligrams in six months’ worth of breast milk . . . 38 milligrams if they only eat baby formula . . . and 117 milligrams if it’s a soy-based baby formula.
6. Formaldehyde. There’s a tiny bit to inactivate the virus . . . as much as 0.02 milligrams per dose. But we have WAY more of it than that circulating in our bodies naturally. The average baby has 50 to 70 times that much formaldehyde at birth.
7. There’s also something called thimerosal, that contains a tiny amount of mercury . . . but a much-less-dangerous kind than you find in fish. It’s another preservative that’s been used in vaccines for 90 years. But two decades ago, there were concerns it could cause health issues if it was used too much. So now most vaccines don’t have it.
Only some types of the flu vaccine have it today. But there are other versions that don’t.