Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Ingrid Cumberbatch, gave a breakdown of the ingredients in the three vaccines being used by the Ministry of Health and Wellness during her presentation at the final town hall meeting on COVID-19 vaccination and testing. (Stock Photo)

The Barbadian public has been asking what are the ingredients in the vaccines currently being offered, and last evening, during the final town hall meeting on COVID-19 vaccination and testing, at the Combermere School, Dr. Ingrid Cumberbatch answered that question.

Senior Medical Officer, Dr. Cumberbatch, during her presentation Let’s Talk 4: Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 in Barbados, explained what the different types of vaccines seek to achieve.

She said: “There are several different types of vaccines.  Each type is designed to teach your immune system how to fight off germs and the serious diseases they cause.  The majority of vaccines used against COVID-19 are what are called “next generation” vaccines.  They are either mRNA vaccines, or viral vector vaccines.”

The Senior Medical Officer then went on to give a breakdown of the ingredients in the three vaccines being used by the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

Rolled out in February of this year, the AstraZeneca vaccine’s active ingredient is a weakened adenovirus, which gives the body instructions to create the COVID-19 spike protein in its cells.  “That way, when a person is exposed to COVID-19, the immune system will recognise the part of the virus that has those spike proteins and will know how to fight it.  This is the same type of technology that flu vaccines has used for years.  It is a proven, safe and relatively old approach,” Dr. Cumberbatch explained.

She noted that the non-active ingredients in the AstraZeneca vaccine are ethanol, which is used as a preservative; sugar as a stabiliser, and emulsifiers to ensure that the components stay together during the transportation and storage process.

The Sinopharm vaccine was rolled out in July.  She stated that the active ingredient is inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus particles that have been grown in culture in a laboratory, and then were inactivated to lose disease-producing capacity, while still stimulating an immune response.  It also has in aluminium oxide, which is used as an adjuvant “and this just means that it helps the inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus to stimulate an immune response”.  The non-active ingredients are salt, sodium dihydrogen phosphate and disodium hydrogen phosphate.

“So in Pfizer, mRNA is the only active ingredient and uses this technology to build antibodies against COVID-19. That’s the lime or the lemon.  The mRNA contains material that provide instructions for our body on how to make the COVID-19 spike protein that triggers an immune response within our body, lipids or fats, which are needed to deliver the mRNA to the cells. 

“The non-active ingredients [are] salts, which are used to help balance the acidity in the body; sugar, which is basic table sugar; sucrose, which is used to help the molecules to maintain their shape during freezing.  Those are the basic ingredients,” Dr. Cumberbatch informed.            

She also responded to a question raised at previous town hall meetings regarding whether the spike proteins in vaccines are toxic.  Dr Cumberbatch stated: “There is currently no scientific proof to support that spike proteins are toxic.”

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