Why Is Aluminum in Vaccines? Isn’t It Dangerous?

Dr. Paul Offit explains why aluminum is in vaccines, how it helps, where else we are exposed to it, and when it is a problem. He also addresses concerns related to the injection versus ingestion of aluminum.


Why is aluminum in vaccines? Isn’t it dangerous?

Speaker 1: Why is aluminum in vaccines? Isn’t it dangerous?

Paul Offit, MD: So, the reason aluminum is in vaccines, and has been really since the 1930s and 1940s, is it serves as something called an adjuvant. So, by adding aluminum what that does is that makes the vaccine more likely to produce an immune response. It also makes it so that you can give fewer doses of the vaccine and also lesser quantities of the vaccine.

So, then the question becomes, is it harmful? And you should realize that assuming you live on the planet earth, you're going to be exposed to aluminum salts in water, aluminum salts in the food that we eat at far greater quantities than you ever would get being exposed to a vaccine. Now, a parent could say, yeah, but isn't it true that if you eat aluminum or drink aluminum salts, that a lesser quantity of that is absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream than if you inject it directly into the arm, in which case the body doesn't have any chance to reject that aluminum? That's true. I mean, by definition, 100% of the aluminum that you give as a vaccine is going to be absorbed, whereas only about 1% of what's given, taken by mouth, either in the water we drink or the breast milk that we drink or the infant formula that we drink or the food that we eat, is going to actually then go from the intestine into the bloodstream. That is true. It's only about 1%.

But there's so much more in your, in what you drink and what you eat than you're ever going to get from a vaccine that you can't tell that anybody's gotten a vaccine that has aluminum in it. In other words, studies that have been done looking at people who get aluminum-containing vaccines that then look at the blood levels for aluminum to see whether there's clearly been a bump in the aluminum then that is in your bloodstream, doesn't show a bump because you are eating or drinking so much aluminum on this planet. So, it isn't harmful.

The only place in which aluminum really is harmful is in people who have kidneys that don't work well or don't work at all, and that’s where it can be a problem. And only in that situation, it's when you're taking sort of things like antacids that contain large quantities of aluminum that that can be a problem.

So, hopefully that helps. Thank you.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center

Last Reviewed on Feb 02, 2022