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The Gates Foundation has long supported polio vaccination efforts in India.
There is no evidence that 496,000 children were paralyzed due to a polio vaccine.
Numbers from the WHO show that there have been 17 cases of vaccine-derived polio in India since 2000.
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.
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.
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
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