Aluminum as a Vaccine Ingredient


Aluminum is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon, and it is the most abundant metal, making up almost 9 percent of the earth's crust. Aluminum is found in plants, soil, water and air. Most plants have low quantities of aluminum, but a few are known to be aluminum accumulators, including some types of tea plants, grasses and orchids.

Aluminum is used extensively in various ways:

  • Aluminum can be found in food-related products including pots and pans; storage containers, such as beverage cans; and foil.
  • Aluminum is found in numerous foods and beverages including fruits and vegetables, beer and wine, seasonings, flour, cereals, nuts, dairy products, baby formulas, and honey. Typically, adults ingest 7 to 9 milligrams of aluminum per day.
  • Aluminum is used for manufacturing of airplanes, siding, roofing materials, paints, pigments, fuels and cigarette filters.
  • Aluminum is found in health products including antacids, buffered aspirin, antiperspirants and some vaccines.

Aluminum in vaccines

Aluminum is used in vaccines as an adjuvant. An adjuvant is  vaccine component that boosts the immune response to the vaccine. Adjuvants allow for lesser quantities of the vaccine and fewer doses. The adjuvant effects of aluminum were discovered in 1926. Aluminum adjuvants are used in vaccines such as hepatitis Ahepatitis Bdiphtheria-tetanus-containing vaccinesHaemophilus influenzae type b, and pneumococcal vaccines, but they are not used in the live, viral vaccines, such as measles, mumps, rubellavaricella and rotavirus.

Vaccines containing adjuvants are tested extensively in clinical trials before being licensed. Aluminum salts, monophosphoryl A (a detoxified bacterial component), and squalene (a compound of the body’s normal cholesterol synthesis pathway) are the only materials that can be used as adjuvants in the United States. The quantities of aluminum present in vaccines are low and are regulated by the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER).

The aluminum contained in vaccines is similar to that found in a liter (about 1 quart or 32 fluid ounces) of infant formula. While infants receive about 4.4 milligrams* of aluminum in the first six months of life from vaccines, they receive more than that in their diet. Breast-fed infants ingest about 7 milligrams, formula-fed infants ingest about 38 milligrams, and infants who are fed soy formula ingest almost 117 milligrams of aluminum during the first six months of life.

*Note: One milligram is one-thousandth of a gram. One gram is the weight of one-fifth of a teaspoon of water.

For more information about ingestion versus injection of aluminum, please review our Q&A sheet (EnglishSpanish, and Japanese) and this video.

Quantities of aluminum in vaccines

Pneumococcal vaccine

  • 0.125 milligram per dose (mg/dose)

Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine

  • < 0.33 to < 0.625 mg/dose

Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine

  • 0.225 mg/dose

Hepatitis A vaccine (Hep A)

  • 0.225 to 0.25 mg/dose (pediatrics)
  • 0.45 to 0.5 mg/dose (adults)

Hepatitis B vaccine (Hep B)

  • 0.225 to 0.5 mg/dose (pediatrics)
  • 0.5 mg/dose (adults)

Hep A/Hep B vaccine

  • 0.45 mg/dose

DTaP/inactivated polio/Hep B vaccine

  • < 0.85 mg/dose

DTaP/inactivated polio/Hib vaccine

  • 0.33 mg/dose

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine

  • 0.5 mg/dose

Japanese Encephalitis (JE) vaccine

  • 0.25 mg/dose

Meningococcal B vaccine

  • 0.25 – 0.52 mg/dose

Td vaccine

  • < 0.53 – 1.5 mg/dose

Tdap vaccine

  • 0.33 – 0.39 mg/dose

"Is the Aluminum in vaccines safe?"

"Is There a Difference Between Aluminum That Is Injected vs. Ingested?" 

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