A host holds a graphene chip during a mobile fair in Barcelona. ( AFP / Pau Barrena)

Available vaccines do not contain graphene oxide, experts say

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Multiple Facebook posts have repeatedly shared a claim that all commercially available vaccines purportedly contain a cancer-causing substance called graphene oxide. But these posts are misleading: experts separately told AFP that graphene oxide is not used in commercially available vaccines. The most commonly used vaccines go through rigorous testing and have been safely used for decades, according to the World Health Organization.

"After investigating the contents of vaccines, 99% was found to be graphene oxide. Like asbestos this causes cancer," reads this Korean-language Facebook post on July 12, 2021.

"Graphene oxide was found in all vaccines commercially available," the post adds.

Screenshot of the misleading post. Captured July 20, 2021.

Graphene oxide is a derivative of graphene which is reportedly the world's thinnest material first isolated in 2004.

A similar claim was also shared in Facebook posts here, here, here and here.

But these posts are misleading, according to multiple experts.

Graphene oxide

"No vaccines on the market [is] based on graphene oxide," Dr Park Jong-bo, a researcher at Biographene, a company that develops graphene-based medicine, told AFP on July 20, 2021.

Vaccines currently in use are "comprised of phospholipid layers, peptides or nucleic acids, and graphene oxide is not part of these categories," Park said.

The claim that all commercially available vaccines were 99% made up of graphene oxide was "ungrounded in fact," Professor Hong Byung-hee, an expert in nanomaterials at Seoul National University, told AFP on July 19, 2021.

"Graphene is being tested for biomedical purposes, including for vaccines, but these applications are still in an experimental phase and a long wait is expected before they become commercially available following clinical trials," Hong said.

Hong added that the claim that graphene oxide is purportedly like asbestos and causes cancer is misleading.

"Graphene has a planar structure, and is very different from asbestos, which has a needle structure," he explained.

"In the case of graphene oxide... there is some toxicity but relatively little, so the material is being widely researched for use in drug delivery systems and in vivo diagnostic sensors."

Published lists of ingredients in widely used Covid-19 vaccines -- Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen -- do not include graphene oxide.

Vaccine safety

Vaccines are available for some two dozen diseases including Covid-19, according to this list from the World Health Organization (WHO).

"The most commonly used vaccines have been around for decades, with millions of people receiving them safely every year," the WHO states here.

"Following the introduction of a vaccine, close monitoring continues to detect any unexpected adverse side effects."