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Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Disposal Recommendations

What we know about the vaccine to date?

The ingredients1 of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine are not inherently hazardous in terms of either biohazardous risk or EPA RCRA hazardous waste designations. The ingredients include lipids (fats), potassium chloride, potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, and dibasic sodium phosphate dehydrate (salts), and sucrose (a sugar). 

The active ingredient is 30 mcg of a nucleosidemodified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2. This is not a live or inactivated virus and is a template used to instruct the body’s cells to create the spike on the corona virus which then stimulates the body to create antibodies against the virus.2 The vaccine cannot “give you” Covid-19 although the body’s reaction when creating antibodies may cause the person to feel sick for a couple of days. 

The fats (lipids) include 0.43 mg (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), 0.05 mg 2[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide, 0.09 mg 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine, and 0.2 mg cholesterol.

The salts include 0.01 mg potassium chloride, 0.01 mg monobasic potassium phosphate, 0.36 mg sodium chloride, and 0.07 mg dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate.

The sugar is 6 mg of sucrose.

How should unused vaccine vials be discarded?

Disposal to a non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste container is ideal. Secondarily, a hazardous waste pharmaceutical container is appropriate, but not required. Disposal in a sharps container is discouraged as it will most likely be autoclaved and landfilled. While there have been rumors about Pfizer wanting unused vaccines returned, we have not been able to substantiate these statements. Please let us know if you have valid documentation of any requirements of this nature.

1 Pfizer SDS:

2 Understanding how mRNA vaccines work:

How should empty vaccine vials be discarded?

Empty vials (vials where the vaccine has been removed to the extent possible using normal practices) could be acceptable in your solid waste stream. Please verify with your solid waste service provider if empty vials are acceptable. Alternatively, organizations may choose to manage them either as biohazardous waste or non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste.

How should syringes with needles used to administer the vaccine be disposed?

Any needle should be disposed in a biohazardous sharps container and managed appropriately through autoclaving, incineration, or chemical treatment. 

Additional information:

*Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers:

*Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers:

*Use of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine: Clinical Considerations: CDC


For more information on compliant disposal of Rx and OTC drugs, contact us today at 877-247-7430 or 

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