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Andy Nguyen
By Andy Nguyen May 21, 2021

No, the Moderna vaccine does not contain an ingredient that’s for “research use only”

If Your Time is short

  • The Moderna vaccine does contain lipids like SM-102, and they are safe for human use. The lipids allow the mRNA used in the vaccine to slip into a cell by covering the molecule in a fatty shell. 
  • Biotech companies sell versions of the lipid that are suspended in a solution of chloroform to pharmaceutical companies for research purposes. The chloroform is toxic, but not the lipid itself. This version is not in the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although more than a billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across the globe, misinformation continues to persist about them — whether it’s about their safety or their ingredients.

A video making the rounds on social media claims the vaccine manufactured by Moderna contains an ingredient that is harmful to humans.

A version of the video on Instagram shows a man Googling the phrase "active ingredient of Moderna vaccine." The man then clicks on a link from Hackensack Meridian Health, a New Jersey hospital network, that takes him to a page titled "A Simple breakdown of the Ingredients in the COVID Vaccines."

As he scrolls down the page, the man stops at an entry listing some of the ingredients in the vaccine. He reads the entry for different lipids contained in the vaccine and wonders aloud about one listed as "SM-102."

He then pulls up a safety data sheet from a biotech company claiming the lipid is "for research use only, not meant for human or veterinary use." 

Instagram is owned by Facebook and the post was flagged as part of the company’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

While the Moderna vaccine does contain the SM-102 lipid, the man misinterpreted the safety data sheet.

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Lipids are used in both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as a way to protect the mRNA that is used in them. The lipids surround the mRNA in a fatty shell, allowing it to enter cells.

The company that provided the data sheet referenced in the video, Cayman Chemical, sells chemicals to pharmaceutical companies for research in developing new medicines.

But this safety data sheet was from a product listing for a version of the lipid that has been dissolved in a solution of chloroform, a highly toxic compound often used in chemical manufacturing.

The safety warnings and risks listed on the sheet are for the chloroform used in the solution — not the SM-102 lipid itself. The Moderna vaccine does not contain any chloroform. The SM-102 lipid is safe for humans.

Our ruling

A video shared on Instagram claimed that a lipid used in the Moderna vaccine was unsafe for humans and is meant to be only used in research.

The video showed a safety sheet provided by a biotech company listing the dangers associated with the lipid. However, the safety sheet was not for the lipid itself but a version dissolved in a solution of chloroform that’s sold to pharmaceutical companies for research purposes.

The dangers listed on the sheet are for the chloroform, which is a toxic substance. The Moderna vaccine does not contain any chloroform — and none of its ingredients are deemed toxic to humans.

We rate this claim False.

Our Sources

Instagram post, May 16, 2021

Hackensack Meridian Health, "A Simple Breakdown of the Ingredients in the COVID Vaccines," Jan. 11, 2021

Food and Drug Administration, Moderna COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet for recipients and caregivers, accessed May 20, 2021

Chemical & Engineering News, "Without these lipid shells, there would be no mRNA vaccines for COVID-19," March 6, 2021

Cayman Chemical, About, accessed May 20, 2021

Cayman Chemical, SM-102, accessed May 20, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chloroform, June 24, 2019

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No, the Moderna vaccine does not contain an ingredient that’s for “research use only”

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