Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredient List

The mRNA vaccine is FDA-approved and recommended to protect against COVID-19 infection.

As of May 2022, people over age 5 are eligible to receive an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine. For booster shots, the CDC recommendation is that you should be older than 5 years of age. Boosters will provide further immunity against COVID-19 variants Before getting your first or subsequent shot, you should take the night before easy and get plenty of sleep. Sometimes the shots can cause mild flu-like symptoms as a side effect. One of the types of vaccines available is the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. If you're wondering what's in it we have a list of ingredients here.

FDA-approved Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Comirnaty) on August 23, 2021, for people over 16. Since then, the vaccine has also been authorized for younger children.

In January 2022, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 12 and older who received their initial vaccination five months before that. And as of May 2022, they expanded the emergency use authorization to include children between five and 11 who received their primary vaccine five months prior. 

The timing of administering the boosters change based on our growing understanding of the virus and the duration of protection from COVID-19 infection. And thanks to the cooperation of scientists worldwide, we now have a life-saving vaccine in our pandemic toolbox.

But scientists have never used mRNA technology—the method used to create the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine—to develop a vaccine, so it's understandable for people to have questions about its ingredients. Fortunately, the answers to those questions are one click away. The makers of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine made the vaccine ingredients available to the public. 

So, you can search online, or you can keep scrolling to learn everything you need to know about this vaccine.

How It Works

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine comprises a new technology called messenger RNA (mRNA). The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (Spikevax) also uses mRNA technology. While it's the first time used in a vaccine, researchers have been studying the possibility of an mRNA vaccine for decades.

Vaccines contain proteins that resemble part of an infectious organism to create an immune response in your body, including antibodies. If you're unfamiliar with them, antibodies are proteins your immune system makes to fight infections like viruses. They can also remain in your body, helping fend off future illnesses by those same infections.

An mRNA molecule codes (or makes instructions) for the protein your body produces. The body naturally makes mRNA based on instructions from DNA, the body's genetic material. 

Scientists created the vaccine mRNA in a laboratory to encode a portion of the spike protein found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. When you receive the vaccine, your body makes the protein that resembles the viral protein. When your body encounters the protein, it creates antibodies.

After the mRNA vaccine prompts an immune response, your body will eliminate the protein and the mRNA. According to a study published in 2021 in Nature Medicine, the antibodies will stay put for an estimated eight months.

Because the vaccine is composed of mRNA, it cannot give someone the virus. Researchers have also vigorously studied the vaccine's safety. The CDC explained that research had found no evidence of the mRNA vaccine interacting with your DNA or affecting your fertility.

Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients

The ingredients for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are available on the pharmaceutical company's website.

Here's the complete list of ingredients, according to Pfizer-BioNTech:

  • mRNA
  • Lipids (including ((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, and cholesterol)
  • Potassium chloride
  • Monobasic potassium phosphate
  • Sodium chloride
  • Dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate
  • Sucrose

Breaking down the jargon, according to the CDC, most vaccine ingredients are those found in the foods we eat daily—fats, sugars, and salts.

We've already covered the mRNA, but the fats called lipids are also crucial. 

"The lipids are very important because they form a little spherical shell around that mRNA," William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine and health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., told Health.

The lipids are "how the vaccine is delivered to your body and to your cells," explained Amesh A. Adalja, MD, an adjunct assistant professor specializing in biosecurity, emerging infectious diseases, and health security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. After that, they dissolve and are removed by your body.

Additionally, lipids "help keep the mRNA intact and stable until it gets into your body and starts doing its work," said Dr. Schaffner. 

Because of that, "lipids are unique to this type of vaccine", Jamie Alan, PhD, an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., told Health. "The rest of the ingredients are very common in vaccines."

"The potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, and dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate are used to maintain the pH and stability of the vaccine," continued Dr. Alan. 

Sodium chloride is just salt, Dr. Adalja pointed out. And sucrose, a form of sugar, is "usually used as a stabilizer," added Dr. Alan.

Overall, experts agree the vaccine ingredients make sense.

"There is nothing on this ingredients list that is shocking," said Dr. Schaffner.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: FDA expands eligibility for Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine booster dose to children 5 through 11 years.

  5. Pfizer-BioNTech Manufacturing. Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet for healthcare providers administering caccine (Vaccine providers).

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Understanding how covid-19 vaccines work.

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  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Covid-19 vaccine facts.

  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). COVID-19 Vaccination. Overview of COVID-19 vaccines.

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