No, COVID-19 Vaccines Don't Contain Toxic Graphene Oxide
Several social media users have claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines contain the cancer-causing substance called graphene oxide. The claim originated from a study conducted in University of Almeria in Spain and went viral in anti-vaccine groups.
However, we found that the claim was false. Lists of the vaccine’s ingredients released by different WHO-approved vaccine companies like Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Sputnik V and AstraZeneca do not include graphene oxide. India-made Bharat Biotech's Covaxin also does not include the toxic compound in its ingredients list.
Moreover, the study was rejected by the university where it is was conducted. The university "unequivocally" distances itself from the study and said that its research lacked transparency.
A video from the "Stew Peters Show" showing a self-described health expert Jane Ruby talking about the ingredients of the Pfizer vaccine has gone viral.
The video, which was found on Canadian video sharing platform Rumble had her claiming that Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine contains graphene oxide. "It's virtually 99.99 percent graphene oxide," Ruby says. Clips from the segment were shared by people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The allegations made by Ruby were based on a report by a professor in Spain.
The claims shared in the video were taken out of context later and users claimed that all COVID-19 vaccines are "dangerous" as they contain graphene oxide.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
To fact-check the claim, we looked for the credentials of Jane Ruby a self-proclaimed "medical expert". According to Ruby's website, “Dr Jane Ruby is a Washington DC health economist and New Right political pundit with fascinating conservative insights and breaking news in the world of New Media!”
Ruby's claims about COVID-19 and vaccines have been fact-checked by other fact-checkers before.
She also makes the oft-repeated false claims in the viral video that "PCR tests are a fraud" and that "COVID-19 has not been isolated". Previously she had made claims about the COVID-19 vaccine giving people magnetism.
What is Graphene Oxide?
Graphene Oxide (GO) is the oxidised form of graphene which contains contains carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Graphene on its own is considered to be the strongest material in the world is also very conductive to heat and electricity.
The compound GO, however, is not very conductive but because of its ability to augment its properties, it is used in many applications - from sensors to textiles to the potential application of medicine, as Meedan's Health Desk, a COVID-19 resource for journalists powered by public health experts, notes here.
It is very easy and cheap to manufacture GO, which is also dispersible in water.
"Graphene oxide may be a useful tool in vaccine delivery in the future, because scientists and chemical engineers believe it can be engineered to be a safe delivery vehicle for vaccines, and help increase their effectiveness," scientists at the Health Desk say.
Do COVID-19 Vaccines Contain Graphene Oxide?
We reached out to immunologist Dr Satyajit Rath who told us that none of the currently licensed COVID-19 vaccines have any GO in them.
Talking about the use of GO in vaccines, Dr Rath said,
As far as I know, graphene oxide (GO) has not so far been used in any vaccine approved for usage. It is indeed being explored as an adjuvant at an experimental level. It has some potential advantages as an adjuvant. Vaccine target proteins can be quite easily stuck onto GO. Since cells of the immune system tend to engulf minute GO particles, vaccine proteins end up being 'delivered' to these cells. Also, since GO particles tend to stimulate the cells that engulf them, the resultant immune responses can be stronger. However, all of this is at preliminary experimental stages as yet.
Virologist and former professor at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, Dr Jacob T John also said that he was not aware of any vaccine using graphene oxide as an adjuvant.
“Graphene oxide is not used in the manufacture of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine,” Keanna Ghazvini, Pfizer’s Senior Associate of Global Media Relations told news agency Reuters. The agency also reached out to Moderna's Chief Corporate Affairs Officer who confirmed that their vaccines do not use GO either.
What About The Study From Spain?
Ruby refers to a Spanish study published by Dr Pablo Campra in the viral video. The same study was also cited in stories published in anti-vaccination websites.
Firstly, the study was not published in any reputed scientific journal in its field nor was it peer-reviewed.
We checked a provisional report of the study that was published by Dr Campra on 28 June 2021. In the report, Dr Camra admitted that the sample he studied for the report was delivered to him by post and he was not aware of the origin of the sample.
Later on on 2 July 2021, the University of Almeria, where Dr Camra works, posted a tweet distancing itself from the study.
"It is flatly false that the University of Almeria has carried out a scientific study with the results that are being published by those media that, on the other hand, are misrepresenting the content of an unofficial report by a University professor about an analysis of a sample of unknown origin with total lack of traceability. Report that this university neither subscribes nor shares, as the report itself warns," the University said in Spanish.
As of 23 August 2021, while this article was being written, no COVID-19 vaccine approved by the WHO contained graphene oxide.
"If GO ever becomes worthwhile to use as an actual vaccine adjuvant, regulatory processes make it mandatory that appropriate amounts of it are tested carefully for any ill effects, on cells, on animals and then on humans, before actual usage can be permitted, " Dr Rath added.
The claim made by Ruby and other social media posts is, therefore, false.
(This story has been published as a part of The Quint’s COVID-19 fact-check project targeting rural women.)
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