There is no peanut oil in vaccines — who comes up with this nonsense?

Sometimes, I think I hear and read it all, but I cannot understand where someone would think there is peanut oil in vaccines. I mean why on earth would anyone think that? Someone, please tell me, because I can’t even think of a reason why peanut oil would be used in the manufacturing of vaccines.

Now you may say, “old dinosaur, you probably just ran into one crackpot saying that.” That’s possible, but when I looked at Googe Trends there are regular searches for “peanut vaccines,” so it must be a thing. Unless people are searching for a peanut vaccine for reasons?

I know most of my regular readers (love you all) know this is pure bunk, but in case someone is searching, at least they’ll find this article to debunk it.

Peanut vaccines
About as close as peanuts will come to vaccines.

What is this peanut oil in vaccines myth?

I’m not quite sure, but here’s what I found.

Some anti-vaxxers found 50-60-year-old data from a study of vaccine adjuvants, which examined the usefulness of peanut oil and other compounds as adjuvants (a substance that enhances the immune response to an antigen). They then claimed that somehow the FDA/CDC/Big Pharma is hiding the fact that peanut oil is in vaccines, and is causing all of the claimed problems from vaccines. 

Another group of anti-vaxxers claimed that “what peanuts have in common with vaccines is something that very few healthcare consumers and medical doctors may be aware of: Peanut oil is a hidden and non-stated ingredient in the manufacture of children’s vaccines.” And these fabricators of vaccine myths then state that Shaken Baby Syndrome, a form of child abuse where one or both parents will shake a baby so hard that she suffers trauma and death, is actually not abuse but results from the peanut oil in the vaccine.

Take a breath here. These vaccine deniers think that it’s not child abuse, not a violent murderous act, but the parents are innocent, it’s all about the vaccines, and the peanut oil hiding in the vaccine. If you want any more evidence that vaccine deniers don’t care about children, only about their antivaccine cause, here it is. I don’t want to debunk this myth, because I’ve got to assume that anyone with more than a handful of neurons firing in their brain would see this for the vile lie that it is.

But if you need more information, Orac himself should dissuade anyone, even a marginally intelligent antivaccination pusher, from accepting this lie. Any reasonable person would get sick knowing a violent murderer might get away with that murder using the “vaccines did it” defense.

Back to peanuts.

funny chipmunk staffing cheeks with nut in woods
Chipmunk loves peanuts. Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

As I mentioned, sometimes these lies leak out into the mainstream science community unintentionally. Recently, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), a professional medical organization of allergists and immunologists, posted a question and answer about peanuts and vaccines in their “Ask an Expert” section (which is a cool idea of the AAAAI).  The question, which appeared to come from a physician, simply asked:

Are you aware of any vaccines that contain peanut oil as an excipient (editor’s note: also known as an adjuvant)? I have a patient who insists that some vaccines contain peanut oil and that is why the prevalence of peanut allergy has continued to rise.

The expert who answered, Phil Lieberman MD, seemed to be unaware of just how crazy the anti-vaxxers can be. Dr. Lieberman gave a kind of nuanced response, and those of us who’ve been doing this for a while understand that if you give a subtle response, the anti-vaccine forces will use it as “proof.” The expert wrote:

The issue of peanut antigen in vaccines, at least according to my assessment of the reading material available, is similar to the issue of adverse effects of mercury in vaccines. It seems to be fueled by consumer message boards and consumer-oriented websites. These websites and consumer message boards, as best I can tell, claim that small amounts of peanut allergen contaminate vaccines and are not listed as an ingredient in the package insert. I personally have not been able to find any confirmation in the medical literature of contamination of vaccines by peanut antigen.

For your interest, I have copied below several links to consumer websites and message boards that discuss this issue. However, as previously noted, I am not aware of any documentation in the medical literature of the contamination of vaccines by peanut antigen.

There are several problems with his response:

  1. To a science person, yes the peanut lie is right up there with mercury (actually thiomersal). The problem is that comparing peanut oil in vaccines to mercury in vaccines kind of proves their point to the anti-vaccine activists, who still use disinformation about mercury in vaccines to make their arguments that vaccines are unsafe.
  2. The expert failed to determine if peanut oil was on the ingredient list of any vaccines. Anti-vaxxers, using the argument from ignorance logical fallacy, will claim that if you can’t “prove” there’s no peanut oil in vaccines, then there must be peanut oil in vaccines.
  3. Then Dr. Lieberman lists five websites from irresponsible vaccine liars to show who’s been pushing this particular myth. Why give them credibility by linking from a credible and scientific AAAAI website?

Now, maybe I’m more used to the full-throated scientific support that is necessary to contradict anti-vaccine disinformation. But Dr. Lieberman’s response was just a tad weak, and could conceivably be used by the vaccine deniers as I mentioned.

brown peanuts in white bowl
Photo by Damian Sochacki on Pexels.com

Here are more key points that are important to understanding why peanut oil is not in any vaccine:

  1. The Code of Federal Regulations, the written law that regulates every US government entity, including the FDA, makes it plainly clear — ALL ingredients in pharmaceutical and medical products must be made public in the product labeling. Not doing so, according to FDA regulations, can be a criminal act, but it will at least result in fines and other penalties. The unbending culture of closely and tightly regulated ingredients, and making public any change, is ingrained deeply into the DNA of every single employee of pharmaceutical companies. I can see where Big Pharma bends rules on labeling and advertising, and I am fully aware of the unethical marketing practices, but in manufacturing, that just isn’t going to happen. It is beyond delusional if anyone thinks this can or will intentionally happen. No one is going to risk prison for their Big Pharma overlords. Let me put this as clear as I can — if an ingredient is listed on the package insert, it’s there. If it isn’t in the package insert, it isn’t there.
  2. The CDC states very clearly that  “aluminum gels or aluminum salts are the only vaccine adjuvants currently licensed for use in the United States” — short of inventing a circuitous chain of conspiracies and paid-off shills, there is just no evidence, none, that supports any claim that there is peanut oil in vaccines.

Summary

I will make this short and sweet for those of you who only read the summary — there are no peanuts, peanut oil, or anything similar used in the manufacturing of vaccines or vaccine adjuvants. None.


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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!