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Is the COVID-19 Vaccine Vegan?

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

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:

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

Pfizer BioNTech

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.






Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

Moderna

When it comes to Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and Spikevax, we were told that they do 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 is the difference between a "booster" and "updated COVID vaccine"?

Instead of calling an additional dose a “booster,” the FDA has shifted to calling it an updated COVID vaccine. This is similar to an annual flu shot, since the updated vaccine builds a new immune response to current variants rather than boosting previous immunity. The Fall/Winter 2023-2024 season COVID-19 vaccines are monovalent and based on the XBB.1.5 variant which is effective against the majority of the COVID cases in the U.S.


Do I need an updated COVID vaccine?

If you have already been vaccinated by any COVID vaccine, you are eligible for an updated COVID vaccine (any brand) two months after your last dose.


If you have had COVID recently, the infection should provide protection from reinfection. The CDC recommends an updated COVID vaccine 6 months since your symptoms began and 3 months in high-risk groups.


If you have never been vaccinated against COVID, the CDC highly recommended for anyone 6 years or older to be up to date on their vaccines.


For those who are severely immunocompromised and have received an updated COVID vaccine, you may choose to receive an optional dose 2 months after your last COVID vaccination.


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?

The CDC recommends that you keep the same vaccine for your primary series. Children aged 6 months to 4 years should get the same vaccine for their booster, if eligible. Children aged 5 who have received Pfizer-BioNTech primary series should get the updated (or bivalent) Pfizer-BioNTech booster, but those who have received the Moderna primary series can get a different vaccine for their updated (or bivalent) booster. Children and adults ages 6 years and older can get a different vaccine for their updated (or bivalent) booster than the vaccine they got for their primary series or previous booster.


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.

 

Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?

Want to learn more?

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!

 
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8 Comments


Please certify that Moderna is animal-

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Do stop experimenting on animals for human drugs and uses and publicise when animal testing has been carried out. It is an horrific practice. Also do be upfront about ingredients within products.

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I would like to see independent certification for "animal-free" labeling.

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Please certify that Moderna is vegan! Thank you

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I have Alpha-Gal and have reacted (GI and brain fog) from Emgality, which was created using hamster cells. Was Modern created from hamster cells?

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Replying to

My husband also has Alpha Gal so want to make sure about Moderna, have you heard anything?

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