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Is the RSV Vaccine Vegan?

Updated: Dec 3, 2023

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common virus that causes mild cold-like symptoms in most people. However, it can be serious for infants and older adults, especially those with chronic medical conditions. Symptoms may include runny nose, cough, fever, and wheezing. Most people recover in a week or two, but some may need to be hospitalized. Recently, both GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer received FDA approval for their RSV vaccine.


FDA Approved RSV Vaccines

Vaccine

Arexvy

Abrysvo

Manufacturer

GlaxoSmithKline

Pfizer

Indication

Active immunization for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in adults > 60 years of age

  • ​Active immunization for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in adults > 60 years of age

  • Active immunization of pregnant individuals at 32 through 36 weeks gestational age for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease and severe LRTD caused by respiratory syncytial virus in infants from birth through 6 months of age

Active Ingredient

​Recombinant respiratory syncytial virus pre-fusion F protein

​Recombinant respiratory syncytial virus pre-fusion F protein

Inactive Ingredients

​Trehalose dihydrate, polysorbate 80, potassium phosphate (monobasic), potassium phosphate (dibasic)

​Tromethamine, tromethamine hydrochloride, sucrose, mannitol, polysorbate, sodium chloride

Side Effects

  • ​Injection site pain

  • Fatigue

  • Myalgia

  • Headache

  • Arthralgia

Individuals > 60 years:

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Injection site pain

  • Muscle pain​

Pregnant Women:

  • Injection site pain

  • Headache

  • Muscle pain

  • Nausea

RSV Vaccine Animal-Free Status

The short and honest answer? It’s complicated.


Both GSK and Pfizer have stated that their final products do not contain animal-derived ingredients. However, they do not test for trace amounts of animal products. Both manufacturers use genetically engineered Chinese Hamster Ovary cells in early manufacturing stages, grown in media free of antibiotics or animal-derived proteins. Additionally, GSK has mentioned casein hydrolysates (from bovine milk) are used during the manufacturing process.


In line with our stringent "animal-free" definition, we cannot classify Pfizer or GSK's vaccines as entirely animal-free. VeganMed categorizes products using Chinese Hamster Ovary cells as "Unknown" in terms of their animal-free status as long as the manufacturer states the final product is expected to be free of animal-derived ingredients. This is due to a slight but potential risk of a reaction in Alpha-gal Syndrome patients. You can read our full stance here.


Conclusion

RSV is a common respiratory virus that can cause serious illness, especially in infants and young children, as well as older adults and people with certain chronic health conditions. The RSV vaccine is an important tool for preventing serious RSV infection. It is safe and effective, and it can help to prevent hospitalization, serious illness, and even death. If you are eligible for the RSV vaccine, please talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated. You can learn more about the RSV vaccines on the CDC website.


 

Disclaimer: The product and/or information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not lab test the products to confirm that they are free from animal ingredients, and it is possible that the formulation and ingredients could have changed. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product. The information provided in this post is accurate and up to date as of the date it was written. However, please note that circumstances and facts may change over time, and new information may become available that could alter the accuracy or relevance of the content. We encourage readers to verify and cross-reference any information provided here with trusted sources or consult relevant professionals for the most current and accurate updates.

 

Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?



Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!


As a reminder, please comment on our FDA Citizen Petition, requesting clear labeling of animal-derived ingredients in medications. Together, we can make a difference.

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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