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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke November 19, 2021

No, COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain luciferase

If Your Time is short

  • COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain luciferase. 

In early November, Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson tweeted a false claim: that "the vaccines contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so that you can be tracked." 

Her account was subsequently suspended and Newsmax itself called the claim false. 

"We have seen no evidence to suggest luciferase or luciferin are present in any vaccines or that they are used as any sort of bioluminescent marker," said Elliot Jacobson, executive vice president and chief content officer for the network.  

But misinformation about luciferase has continued to spread online, including in a blog post by Robinson that some people are sharing. It was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Luciferase is an enzyme that interacts with a protein called luciferin to release light, according to the Food and Drug Administration. This bioluminescence is what fireflies use to attract potential mates

Featured Fact-check

COVID-19 vaccine ingredients vary by manufacturer but none of the vaccines approved for use in the United States — from Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — contain luciferase. The ingredients for each vaccine are published on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ingredient list for Pfizer’s vaccine, for example, shows mRNA, lipids, salts and sugar.


In a Nov. 4 blog post, Robinson pointed to a page on Moderna’s website that shows patents "relevant to our mRNA-1273 vaccine against COVID-19." 

One of the patents mentions "luciferase" four times. Moderna did not respond to PolitiFact’s emails about this patent but, as Health Feedback notes in its detailed analysis of Robinson’s blog post, the patent doesn’t mention COVID-19, the coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2 and is not evidence that Moderna or other COVID-19 vaccines contain luciferase. 

Luciferase was used in some COVID-19 research. In 2020, for example, scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston used it to "develop faster and more accurate diagnostic tests for COVID-19 as well as to analyze potential therapies and gain a clearer understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself." 

But it’s not in the vaccines. 

We rate that claim False.


Our Sources

Blog post, Nov. 4, 2021

The Hill, Newsmax reporter permanently suspended from Twitter after COVID-19 claims, Nov. 9, 2021

The Hill, Newsmax pulls reporter who tweeted vaccine conspiracy theory off air, Nov. 4, 2021

Texas Medical Center, Fireflies help kindle new tests and treatment for COVID-19, July 21, 2020

Health Feedback, There is no evidence that luciferase is an ingredient in the COVID-19 vaccines, Nov. 4, 2021

Moderna patent US 10,703,789

Moderna, Moderna intellectual property, visited Nov. 19, 2021

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Luciferase Immunoprecipitation System (LIPS) assay is a rapid, simple, and sensitive test to detect antibody response to respiratory syncytial virus, Aug. 1, 2019

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FAQ about COVID-19 vaccination, Nov. 5, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (also known as COMIRNATY) Overview and Safety, updated Nov. 19, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Overview and Safety, updated Oct. 28, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Overview and Safety, updated Oct. 29, 2021


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No, COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain luciferase

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