It is false that the Gates Foundation “tested a polio vax in India between 2000 & 2017 and paralysed 496,000 children.”

By 23/04/2020January 5th, 2021No Comments

By PolitiFact

An Indian medical volunteer administers a dose of Polio immunization to a child in Hyderabad, India, on Jan. 29, 2017. (AP)

An Indian medical volunteer administers a dose of Polio immunization to a child in Hyderabad, India, on Jan. 29, 2017. (AP)

A popular conspiracy theory on Facebook digs into Bill Gates’ past to try to discredit his current efforts to speed up the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

An April 13 post claims the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “tested a polio vax in India between 2000 & 2017 and paralysed 496,000 chlidren.”

“Fact!” the post reads.

But it’s not. The post, which has been shared more than 16,000 times, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

(Screenshot from Facebook)

PolitiFact reached out to the original poster, but we haven’t heard back. The Gates Foundation told us in an email that the post is false.

Still, we wanted to take a closer look.

The source of the claim appears to be an April 7 Instagram post from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and one of the biggest sources of anti-vaccine advertisements on Facebook. The post was subsequently covered by the BL, a pro-Trump website that has been known to publish misinformation.

We found no credible news reports about  496,000 paralyzed children in India due to a polio vaccine.

The Gates Foundation has long funded groups in India and elsewhere that seek to expand access to polio immunization. In March 2014, the World Health Organization declared that its Southeast Asia region was polio-free, in part because of the kinds of mass vaccination campaigns supported by the Gates Foundation. However, the virus remains a threat in South Asian countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the WHO, it is possible to contract polio from vaccines — but it’s extremely rare. The agency estimates that 1 in 2.7 million oral doses results in vaccine-associated paralytic polio.

Since the eradication of polio in India, there have been some scares of tainted vaccines. But data from the WHO show that, between 2000 and 2017, there were 17 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.

The Facebook post comes amid a rash of other conspiracy theories about Gates and his connection to the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve fact-checked several false or misleading claims about the billionaire philanthropist, spanning from his purported financial interest in a COVID-19 vaccine to a bogus conspiracy about tracking Americans in lockdown.

Like many of those claims, this Facebook post is inaccurate. We rate it False.

Our Sources

Ars Technica, “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is the single leading source of anti-vax ads on Facebook,” Nov. 14, 2019

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “Bill Gates Visits New Delhi Clinic To Encourage Final Push To Eradicate Polio,” September 2000

The BL, “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. answers Bill Gates on the dangers of a mandatory CCP Virus vaccine,” April 10, 2020

Email from the Gates Foundation, April 22, 2020

Facebook post, April 13, 2020

Forbes, “A Victory, Not A Conspiracy: Bill Gates And Ending Polio,” Jan. 12, 2012

Instagram post from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., April 7, 2020

Quartz, “After contaminated vaccine sparks polio fears in India, WHO calms nerves,” Oct. 5, 2018

Reuters, “India cuts some funding ties with Gates Foundation on immunization,” Feb. 8, 2017

Science magazine, “Polio eradication program faces hard choices as endgame strategy falters,” Dec. 30, 2019

Snopes, “EXCLUSIVE: Expanding Pro-Trump Outlet ‘The BL’ Is Closely Linked to The Epoch Times,” Oct. 11, 2019

Voice of America, “Polio Remains Threat in Militant-hit Areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Jan. 24, 2020

World Health Organization, “Marking five years of polio-free certification, WHO South-East Asia Region uses polio legacy to enhance overall immunization,” March 27, 2018

World Health Organization poliovirus data, accessed April 23, 2020

World Health Organization, “Vaccine-associated paralytic polio (VAPP) and vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV),” February 2015