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VERIFY: No, there are not animal products in the COVID-19 vaccines

Claims continue to circulate that the vaccines contain pork products, which could be prohibitive for some religions. The Verify team sets the record straight.

ATLANTA — With expanded access to the COVID-19 vaccine, we're getting more question about the product. 11Alive viewer W.H. is one of those asking for us to take a closer look at the ingredients and whether they comply with some religious provisions.

QUESTION

Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain animal products? 

ANSWER 

No, there are no animal products in the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

SOURCES 

  • The ingredients for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines
  • Dr. Aaron Glatt, Rabbi and Epidemiologist, Chair of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau 
  • Dr. Nabile Safdar, President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America

WHAT WE FOUND

To begin, the 11Alive Verify team went straight to the drug companies behind all three vaccines authorized in the United States. All three drug makers confirmed there are no animal products in their vaccines. 

A spokesperson for Pfizer confirming there are no animal products used in the development and manufacturing of their COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, the vaccine is made of "synthetic and enzymatically produced components."

A representative for Jansen, J&J’s pharmaceutical subsidiary, also verified  "there are no animal products in our vaccine -- the vaccine does not use any pork by-product" while Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet also confirmed its vaccine "contains no preservatives, no antibiotics, and no products from human or animal origin."

So why the question? Claims continue to circulate that the vaccines contain pork products, which could be prohibitive for some religions. 

"Historically, there have been vaccines that have used pork products, which, you know, universally amongst Muslims, you know, typically they would not consume them if they're following halal guidelines," Dr. Nabile Safdar, President of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), told 11Alive. 

The doctors at IMANA work closely with other groups in determining whether something is halal or not, and the group says it's 'the majority opinion that the Pfizer-Moderna vaccines are Shariah-compliant' and free of pork products.

According to Dr. Safdar, the organization also adopts the position the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is halal.

"Whenever Muslims are putting anything in their body, it's a really natural question for them to think about whether it is something halal or not," Dr. Safdar said. "For most food items, it's very clear people already know from experience...but with vaccines, it's a little harder to sometimes figure out what are what's exactly in it. Sometimes the ingredient list, even if it's available, is very technical. And so people are not really always sure what the ingredients or the methods used to make it are. And that's where I think this natural question comes out of."

As Ramadan approaches, the organization also addresses whether taking a vaccine would interere with religious fasting. 

According to IMANA, "Taking Covid-19 vaccines currently licensed in this country does not invalidate the fast during Ramadan as per the opinion of the majority of Islamic scholars(e.g, Fiqh Council of North America, Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America, and Initiative on Islam and Medicine)."

There are other religions addressing such concerns. 

Dr. Aaron Glatt is a rabbi who has also been on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York. 

"For something to be kosher, it has to be slaughtered in a ritual and compassionate way," Rabbi Dr. Glatt explained, "and it can only come from certain types of animals...it's a very complicated subject."

But Rabbi Dr. Glatt says that kosher certification would not apply to vaccines.

"This is only for eating purposes... it's not using something," he added. "So from a Jewish point of view, there is zero problem with taking the vaccine because of kosher ingredients.  In fact, it's an imperative. It's a mitzvah, it's a positive commandment for a person to protect their health."

While the determination of whether the vaccines are kosher or halal is a theological one where opinions could vary, the Verify team can definitely confirm there are no animal products in the currently US-approved COVID-19 vaccines.