In addition to weakened or killed disease antigens (viruses or bacteria), vaccines contain very small amounts of other ingredients – excipients or media. Some excipients are added to a vaccine for a specific purpose. These include: Preservatives, to prevent contamination. For example, thimerosal. Adjuvants, to help stimulate a stronger immune response. For example, aluminum salts. Stabilizers, to keep the vaccine potent during transportation and storage. For example, sugars or gelatin.
Others are residual trace amounts of materials that were used during the manufacturing process and removed. These include:
Cell culture materials, used to grow the vaccine antigens. For example, egg protein, various culture media.
Inactivating ingredients, used to kill viruses or inactivate toxins. For example, formaldehyde.
Antibiotics, used to prevent contamination by bacteria. For example, neomycin.
The following table lists all components, other than antigens, shown in the manufacturers’ package insert (PI) for each vaccine.
Each of these PIs, which can be found on the FDA’s website contains a description of that vaccine’s manufacturing process, including the amount and purpose of each substance. In most PIs, this information is found in Section 11: “Description.” All information was extracted from manufacturers’ package inserts, current as of January 6, 2017.