The FDA has granted Pfizer's formula "full approval" and has deemed vaccines by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson safe and effective with "emergency use authorizations."
In Oct. 25, 2021, a Snopes reader alerted us to an alleged conspiracy regarding COVID-19 vaccine ingredients. According to the rumor, vaccine recipients were supposedly being injected with formulas containing more ingredients than what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had "approved" for the immunizations.
"The FDA approved version of the 'vaccine' had 3 ingredients. The version being injected into the public has 7," the reader wrote to us, referring to a post supposedly seen on Facebook.
The reader's inquiry included other claims, including the false notion that FDA-endorsed formulas by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) did not "fit the definition" of vaccines but were rather "experimental treatments" for the coronavirus. (Here's a portal of evidence on the FDA's website outlining the agency's approval of the immunizations, debunking that assertion.) For the purpose of this fact check, however, we will focus on the allegation about the immunizations' amount of ingredients.
[See also from Snopes: Does J&J COVID-19 Vaccine Contain Aborted Fetal Cells?]
Before we address the crux of the claim, a note on semantics: As of this writing, the FDA had only granted "full approval" to one type of vaccine — Pfizer's. However, the federal agency gave the formulas by Moderna and J&J "emergency use authorizations" (EUA), allowing for their mass distribution to help end the deadly pandemic as fast as possible. That endorsement, while it was not a full approval, confirmed the shots' safety and effectiveness after testing them on tens of thousands of people.
While the post displayed above used the phrase "FDA-approved" without specifying which immunization it was referring to, we considered ingredients for all three vaccines, no matter if they had full FDA approval or EUA's.
Firstly, here's the FDA's list of ingredients for Pfizer's shot, as outlined via documentation on its website:
mRNA, lipids ((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, and sucrose.
In other words, the formula contained mRNA molecules (the messenger ribonucleic acids that help immune systems fight COVID-19), as well as salt, sugar, a variety of fatty acids and a handful of other compounds, for a total of seven ingredients.
Next, we considered the FDA's list of elements that make up Moderna and J&J's formulas, respectively. They are as follows, according to FDA records obtained by Snopes:
Like Pfizer's shot, those immunizations contain seven or eight ingredients — not three, like the post claimed.
Next, we sought evidence to confirm or deny the allegation that vaccine administrators at certified sites across the U.S.— either at clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, etc. — had injected people with fluids that did not contain the above-listed ingredients. We found no reported instances of that happening, whether intentionally or unintentionally. (That's not to say fraudulent vaccines don't exist. Get more information from the FDA on those here.)
In sum, we considered the claim that people were receiving COVID-19 vaccinations containing more ingredients than what the FDA had endorsed for the public a baseless conspiracy theory. As such, we rate this claim "False."
More Snopes' fact checks addressing rumors about COVID-19 vaccine ingredients: