Updated: Jan 2
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have become the first to be approved under emergency use authorization for the prevention of COVID-19 disease. The FDA regulatory processes for new drug approval includes animal testing during the research phases. Unfortunately because of this, no medication can truly be labeled as "vegan". The more appropriate labeling would be "animal-free" (i.e. products not containing any animal-derived ingredients).
COVID vaccine and animal-derived ingredients
So, are either of the COVID vaccines animal-free? We reached out to the manufacturers and we were informed that one of them is. This is what we learned:
While Pfizer and BioNTech’s BNT162b2 vaccine does not use animal or human cell lines in the development steps, a material used in the early stages of the manufacturing process contains a component that is derived from bovine milk.
When it comes to Moderna’s vaccine, we were told that it does NOT contain any preservatives, antibiotics, adjuvants, or human- or animal-derived materials.
However, we have not worked with the company directly to independently certify that it is Animal-Free.
If you would like VeganMed to certify the Moderna vaccine, please “like” this post and leave a comment at the bottom. This would be the only way we can be certain that the vaccine is free from any animal-derived ingredients. Through your support, we can push for positive change in the pharmaceutical industry such as reducing its use of animal-derived ingredients in medications.
Remember, your health comes first!
It's important to remember that the COVID-19 vaccines will play a critical role in managing the pandemic and saving lives. At VeganMed we believe that your health should always come first. After all, how can we continue to advocate for animal welfare if we are not fit and healthy ourselves? To this end, we stand behind the philosophy that veganism should be embraced as far as practically possible. A decision to avoid taking a medication or vaccine can be dangerous and all medical decisions should be made after seeking the guidance of your doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the COVID-19 vaccines made from?
The COVID-19 vaccine ingredients are:
Can I track vaccine side effects?
The CDC has launched V-safe, an app that uses text messaging and web surveys to provide personalized check-ins after you receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Through V-safe, you can report to the CDC any side effects you may be experiencing after getting the vaccine. Depending on your answers, someone from CDC may even call you for more information. This is a great way for you to contribute to the safe deployment of the vaccine!
Can you interchange between Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?
There is currently no data available on the interchangeability of the different vaccines to complete the vaccination series.
Are there any developments towards vegan medications?
It is unfortunate that medications require animal testing during the research phases. However, we are encouraged by new developments in alternatives to animal testing. These include in vitro methods and computer simulation models. Although we still have a way to go before we can eliminate animal testing for good, it's important that we continue to work together as a community to advocate for change. Through collectively voicing our concerns with regulators, pharmaceutical companies and medical leaders, we believe there is a path towards positive change.
Ingredients within medications are notoriously complicated to understand. Even as pharmacists, we can find it challenging! So what about animal-derived ingredients? We believe it should be easier to determine if your medications are animal-free and that's why we created VeganMed. We aim to provide much needed transparency to consumers and to help create a world where medications are completely free from animal-derived ingredients. Importantly, medical bodies are starting to listen. We recently wrote about new recommendations from the American Medical Association (AMA) urging manufacturers for better labeling of animal-derived ingredients and encouraging better cultural awareness regarding patient preferences. We are also encouraged by the efforts of companies like iBio CDMO, who are providing unique plant-based manufacturing methodologies.
Note: This post expands on our original post dated 12/17/2020 about the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and includes our recent findings on the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, along with some additional information and FAQs that you might find useful.
Research credit: Frank Son, PharmD and Minakshi Gulati
DISCLAIMER: VeganMed, Inc. does not promote the use or disuse of medications, and we do not assume liability for particular treatment decisions. All medical decisions should be made after seeking the guidance of your doctor, including discussions of any associated risks. We try our best to ensure the accuracy of our information but can not guarantee it. We strive to provide you with valuable information so you can make the right decisions for your health and lifestyle.
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Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!
If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!