Fact check: The document shows graphene used to test COVID-19 vaccine, not used as an ingredient
The claim: A document proves graphene oxide is in Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine
A March 20 Substack article contends documents prove there is a dangerous ingredient in the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
"Conspiracy No More: Pfizer Documents Reveal That Pfizer 'Vaccines' Contain GRAPHENE OXIDE," the headline reads.
The piece was shared more than 100 times in four days on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle, a social media analytics tool.
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Our rating: False
The document in question describes a validation process in the lab that uses graphene oxide, but that process is not part of the manufacturing process. Graphene oxide is not present in the vaccines.
Graphene oxide used in evaluative process, not vaccine
The Substack article hinges its claim on a purported Pfizer document titled "Structural and Biophysical Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein (P2 S) as a Vaccine Antigen," but it misrepresents what the document says.
The document is one of more than 600 found in a searchable database maintained by the Informed Consent Action Network, which obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request from the FDA. Pfizer did not immediately comment on whether the document is authentic.
But in any case, the document doesn't describe a surprise vaccine ingredient.
The document describes a validation process in a lab, according to Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University at Buffalo's Department of Medicine.
“That shows an evaluative process, not how it is made,” he said of the document.
On page 7, the document describes a process for testing if the mRNA in the vaccine can lead to the production of a spiked protein, Russo said.
The described process uses gold mesh grids overlaid with graphene oxide to help visualize the protein under a microscope, Russo said. And that validation process is completely separate from the manufacturing of the vaccine.
Fact check: COVID-19 mRNA vaccines cannot cause the disease, don't have live virus
Graphene oxide is not used at all in the manufacturing of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and is not in the shots, according to Sharon Castillo, a spokesperson for Pfizer. She pointed to fact sheets published on the Food and Drug Administration’s website for the vaccine, which list all of its ingredients. They include mRNA, fats, salts and sucrose, but not graphene oxide.
Graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of graphite with distinctive properties, has been at the center of misinformation about what is in COVID-19 vaccines. USA TODAY previously debunked a claim graphene oxide could be used to remotely track vaccinated individuals.
USA TODAY could not reach the Substack author for comment.
Lead Stories also debunked the claim.
Our fact-check sources:
Dr. Thomas Russo, March 27, Phone interview with USA TODAY
Sharon Castillo, March 27, Email exchange with USA TODAY
FDA, updated March 13, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccines
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated Nov. 1, 2022, Overview of COVID-19 Vaccines
USA TODAY, Oct. 29, 2021, Fact check: False claim that Pfizer filed a patent for remote contact tracing of vaccinated people
Nebraska Medicine, updated Dec. 8, 2021, You asked, we answered: Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain tromethamine, luciferase or graphene oxide?
Digital Trends, Oct. 31, 2019, What is graphene?
Lead Stories, March 23, Fact Check: Pfizer Documents Do NOT Prove COVID Vaccines Contain Graphene Oxide
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Document shows graphene used to test vaccine, not make it