A Queensland hospital staffer holds a vial of the Pfizer COVID vaccine
Ingredients of COVID-19 vaccines must be published by law, according to the Therapeutic Goods Act. (Albert Perez/AAP IMAGES)

Psst! Vaccine ingredients are not a secret and are required by law

Nik Dirga November 17, 2022

Pfizer signed a confidential agreement with the Australian government which means the ingredients of the COVID-19 vaccine are kept a secret.


False. The vaccine ingredients are publicly available, as required by Australian law.

A Facebook post has stirred up claims that Pfizer signed a confidential deal in Australia that keeps the ingredients of its COVID-19 vaccine secret.

The post, which links to a Spectator article titled, “Wot’s in the shots?”, claims: “Australia has signed a confidential agreement with Pfizer which doesn’t allow for the public to know what is in the shots .. mmmm- remind me again that we live in a democracy!!”

The claim is false. Ingredients of COVID vaccines must be published by law according to the Therapeutic Goods Act and can be found on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website, Pfizer and the TGA confirmed.

A TGA representative told AAP FactCheck the claim is false and pointed to the list of vaccine ingredients on its website.

“As part of a vaccine’s provisional approval process, the TGA requires that a comprehensive Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) leaflet and Product Information (PI) document be available for healthcare professionals and consumers for all prescription medicines,” its website notes.

The logo of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
 The TGA told AAP FactCheck the claim is false and pointed to vaccine ingredients on its website. 

A Pfizer representative confirmed to AAP FactCheck the active ingredients and excipients in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine (also known by the brand name Comirnaty) are listed in the Consumer Medicine Information and Product Information.

Dr Jane Frawley, a senior lecturer in public health at the University of Technology Sydney, said it is a legal requirement that all ingredients in medicines, including vaccines, to be listed on the product information sheet.

“In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is responsible for assessing, monitoring, and regulating vaccines. Companies must make a submission to the TGA for every new medicine, regardless of whether it is available in other countries,” Dr Frawley told AAP FactCheck in an email.

“A thorough and independent review of the medicine is then conducted. The TGA decided that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (including all its ingredients) met the high safety, efficacy and quality standards required for use in Australia.

“This decision was also informed by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Vaccines (ACV). The ACV is an independent committee that includes medical scientists, medical practitioners, and community representatives.”

A Pfizer representative told AAP FactCheck the details of the agreement with the Australian government for the purchase of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine are confidential.

Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine lie in a box
 Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine lie in a box. 

“The contract documents/supply agreements themselves are not appropriate for release as they contain confidential and commercially sensitive information,” the Department of Health states on its website.

There has been concern about the terms of agreements made between Australia’s government and vaccine providers, but much of that relates to intellectual property, confidentiality requests or national security issues, rather than claims the ingredients are being kept secret.

Similar issues with vaccine contract secrecy have been raised in other parts of the world. AAP FactCheck has also previously debunked claims about ingredients in COVID vaccines, here and here. 

The Verdict

The claim that the ingredients of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine are a secret following the signing of an agreement between the pharmaceutical company and the Australian government is false.

Vaccine manufacturers are required by Australian law to provide lists of the ingredients in their product, which are available online.

False – The claim is inaccurate.

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