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VERIFY: No, COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain gluten

There are three authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. All are safe for people with celiac disease.
Credit: AP
FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, pharmacist Madeline Acquilano draws a syringe of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Three COVID-19 vaccines have been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA: The vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The nationwide vaccination campaign is well underway and millions of Americans have been vaccinated already.

As more people gain access to the vaccine, some are wondering about the ingredients in vaccines and whether they could trigger allergic reactions. 

THE QUESTION 

Do any COVID-19 vaccines contain gluten, and are they safe for people with celiac disease?   

WHY WE ARE VERIFYING

Viewer Wendy J. sent the VERIFY team an email asking: “Do any of the vaccines contain gluten? Celiac disease in our family so we need to know!” 

As more than 3 million people in the U.S. suffer from celiac, which is a severe gluten allergy, the answer impacts many Americans’ decisions to become vaccinated against COVID-19.   

THE ANSWER

According to the FDA and Dr. David Sullivan, an infectious disease physician and microbiology professor at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, none of the three vaccines contain gluten. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defines celiac disease as “a chronic digestive and immune disorder that damages the small intestine.”

The NIDDK further explains symptoms of the disease are triggered by eating foods containing gluten. It can cause long-term digestive problems, keeping the body from getting all of the nutrients it needs.

According to the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, about 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac, or about 3 million Americans. 

The FDA lists the ingredients of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on its website. None contain gluten. 

On top of that, Dr. Sullivan explained that the body’s reaction to a shot with gluten wouldn’t be the same as when the gluten is ingested via food.

“It's not like it's a bee sting venom that causes an allergic life threatening anaphylaxis or reaction. It doesn't have the same effect,” Sullivan said. “Gluten is processed, it's broken down, and the broken down product is what causes the inflammation in the gut to cause the symptoms.”

The Society for the Study of Celiac Disease, a group of medical professionals dedicated to finding ways to treat the disease, is urging people with celiac to get the vaccine as they don’t believe it poses any risks to individuals with the condition.