US and EU COVID vaccines don’t contain aluminum
CLAIM: COVID-19 vaccines contain aluminum, a toxic ingredient that enters the brain and causes disease.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use in the United States do not contain any aluminum. Nor do the AstraZeneca or Sputnik V vaccines. Some Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, as well as some vaccines used against other diseases, do use tiny amounts of aluminum to help boost the immune response. This method is safe and the quantity of aluminum is trivial compared to what humans encounter elsewhere in everyday life, experts say.
THE FACTS: Aluminum has been used in vaccines since the 1930s as an adjuvant, or immune booster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The amount of aluminum in a shot is minimal — similar to the amount of aluminum found in a liter of baby formula, the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia explains.
Posts circulating widely on social media this week are weaponizing long-held misconceptions about the safety of aluminum in vaccines to stoke fears in the population about getting a COVID-19 shot, even though most coronavirus vaccines that are currently in use don’t contain the ingredient.
A video viewed more than 200,000 times on Instagram features footage from a February 2020 committee hearing in the Connecticut General Assembly in which a doctor testifies that the aluminum in vaccines is dangerous.
The doctor claims that the type of aluminum in some vaccines is capable of entering the brain, and implies that the ingredient in vaccines may have caused an increase in developmental and autoimmune diseases in the population.
A caption on the video claims that aluminum “is in the vaccine” and will “kill” the brain, misspelling “aluminum” and “brain.”
It’s false to suggest that the aluminum in vaccines is the cause of such significant health problems, according to Dr. Christopher Gill, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Boston University School of Public Health.
The safety of aluminum adjuvants “has been researched extensively, and there are no harmful effects detectable,” Gill told The Associated Press in an email.
The amount of aluminum in a typical vaccine is very small, Gill said — about a thousand times less than the recommended safe dose for aluminum exposure.
It’s also far less than the amount of aluminum we expose ourselves to from things we eat, drink and touch on a daily basis, according to Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician and director of the Vaccine Education Center.
“Much of the food we eat will contain small quantities of aluminum,” Offit told the AP in a phone interview. “The amount of aluminum you encounter in vaccines is less than you encounter in the environment as long as you live on planet Earth.”
Social media users commenting on the Instagram post also interpreted it to refer to the COVID-19 vaccines that have become more widely available in recent months.
However, that’s also misleading, because COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use in the United States — created by the companies Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — contain no aluminum, according to their available ingredient lists.
Aluminum is not found in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that has been used in several European countries. It’s also not in Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Gill said.
Some Chinese COVID-19 vaccines do use aluminum adjuvants, according to their ingredient lists.
Other immunizations that use aluminum adjuvants include vaccines against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus and the DTaP vaccine, which protects children against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
“In all cases, vaccines containing adjuvants are tested for safety and effectiveness in clinical trials before they are licensed for use in the United States, and they are continuously monitored by CDC and FDA once they are approved,” the CDC says on its website.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.
Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536