A man receives a dose of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine in Australia's first drive-through vaccination centre in the Melbourne suburb of Melton on August 10, 2021. ( AFP / William West)

Social media users falsely link Pfizer to Covid-19 monitoring invention

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Multiple Facebook posts have shared an image of a US patent registration document alongside a claim that it shows Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine has been approved to be used for "remote contact tracing of all vaccinated humans worldwide". The claim is false. The registered patent is not intended for tracking vaccinated people and has no connection with Pfizer, the patent’s creators and the pharmaceuticals company told AFP.

The claim was shared on October 26, 2021, in this Facebook post from an Australian-based user.

A screenshot of the Facebook post, taken November 5, 2021

The post includes a screenshot of a US patent document, claiming that it shows that a patent application by Pfizer to remotely track vaccinated people has been approved and that vaccinated people will be connected to the "internet of things". Frequencies from cell towers and satellites will connect with graphene in the tissue of vaccinated people to track them, the post claims.

An identical claim was also shared by other Australian-based Facebook users here, here, here and here.

The claim has also circulated in Spanish and Italian.

However, the claim is false.

The screenshot shows this US Patent registration document, which describes a system that uses Bluetooth in mobile phones to determine the potential infectiousness of an individual based on their movements.

The patent lists two people, Gal Ehrlich and Maier Fenster, as its inventors. Both are patent attorneys at Ehrlich and Fenster patent and trademark law firm in Israel.

In an email to AFP, Ehrlich explained that the patent was conceived in April and May 2020, before Covid-19 vaccines were available, and that the patent is owned by them — not Pfizer or any other vaccine producer.

“The patent is owned by its inventors: Maier Fenster and myself. Regretfully, Pfizer nor anyone else so far expressed any interest in this invention/patent,” Ehrlich told AFP on October 28, 2021.

The invention would combat the spread of Covid-19 using technology like Bluetooth to detect socially active members of a community so vaccines or medicines could be targeted at them, he said.

"The implementation of this approach of prioritization may be by counting social interactions by monitoring Bluetooth interactions between cell phones of those individuals that socially interact in a way technologically similar to what is commonly known as digital contact tracing.

"With one major difference: contacts of apparently healthy individuals are monitored for prioritization of administration of measures, such as vaccines, if, where and when these are in short supply," the inventor said.

They hypothesized that administering vaccines "first to those that socially interact more would prevent super-spreading and result in an overall better epidemiological outcome", he added.

No graphene oxide, no tracking devices in vaccines

A Pfizer spokesperson confirmed with AFP in an October 29, 2021, email that "the patent application in question is not related to Pfizer" and explained that "graphene oxide is not used in the manufacture of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine."

Maria Victoria Sanchez, researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet) in Argentina, told AFP that the patent does not mention tracing people using trackers found in vaccines.

"There is no tracer in vaccines, and obviously no graphene in them," she said. "Vaccines do not contain graphene."

A list of vaccine ingredients published by the World Health Organization shows that no authorised Covid-19 vaccines contain graphene or graphene oxide.

The list includes the ingredients for the AstraZeneca, Janssen, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech; China's Sinopharm, Sinovac, CanSino and Anhui Zhifei; Russia's Sputnik; and India's Bharat Biotech vaccines.

A spokesperson for the US Food and Drug Administration told AFP on October 28, 2021, that claims that vaccines have tracking devices implanted in them are “completely false”.

“Please be assured that there are no vaccines (including COVID-19 vaccines) authorized or approved by the FDA for use in the United States that contain tracking devices of any type,” the FDA spokesperson said.

AFP has debunked various misinformation claiming tracking devices and graphene being implanted into vaccines and linking 5G cell towers to vaccines, such as here, here, here and here.

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