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Noah Y. Kim
By Noah Y. Kim September 18, 2020

YouTube video takes Bill Gates out of context on coronavirus vaccinations

If Your Time is short

• Video cuts out the question Gates was responding to and the first part of his answer to make it seem as if he supports mandatory coronavirus vaccinations. ​

According to the internet, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates thinks you don’t have a choice about being vaccinated. A YouTube video even shows him saying so in his very own words.

Here’s why you shouldn’t believe this claim: The video, titled "Bill Gates says you don't have a choice to be vaccinated or not," takes Gates’ comments during an interview with the Financial Times out of context by eliminating the question he was answering and the first part of his response. 

"You don’t have a choice," Gates says in the clip, which has been viewed almost 100,000 times. "People act like you have a choice. People don't feel like going to the stadium when they might get infected. You know, it's not the government who's saying OK, just ignore this disease, and people are deeply affected by seeing these deaths, by knowing they could be part of the transmission chain, and old people, their parents, their grandparents could be affected by this. And so you don't get to say, ignore what's going on here. There will be the ability, particularly in rich countries, to open up if things are done well over the next few months. But for the world at large, normalcy only returns when we've largely vaccinated the entire global population." 

The video 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.)

That's because the video ignores the fact that Gates was responding to a question about how he would weigh the economic costs of lockdown with the public health risks of reopening businesses during the early months of the pandemic. 

Here’s a transcript of the relevant passage from the Financial Times interview, complete with the question that Gates was answering when he made his "you won’t have a choice" comment. 

Interviewer: "And what about that trade-off? You just mentioned, obviously, the economic pain. What do you think the right balance is between the trade-off of protecting people's lives and the economic hit? Do you see a situation where the global economy could be virtually at a standstill for a year or even more?" 

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Gates: "Well, it won't go to zero, but it will shrink. Global GDP is going to take probably the biggest hit ever. Maybe the Depression was worse or 1873, I don't know. But in my lifetime this will be the greatest economic hit. But you don't have a choice. People act like you have a choice. People don't feel like going to the stadium when they might get infected. You know, it's not the government who's saying OK, just ignore this disease, and people are deeply affected by seeing these deaths, by knowing they could be part of the transmission chain, and old people, their parents, their grandparents could be affected by this. And so you don't get to say, ignore what's going on here. There will be the ability, particularly in rich countries, to open up if things are done well over the next few months. But for the world at large, normalcy only returns when we've largely vaccinated the entire global population. And so although there's a lot of work on testing, a lot of work on drugs that we’re involved with, trying to achieve that ambitious goal, which has never been done for the vaccine, that rises to the top of the list."

In context, Gates is saying that governments won’t be able to avoid taking an economic hit from the pandemic, because he believes that people won’t want to frequent businesses when there’s a chance that they’ll become "part of the transmission chain." 

Gates does say that he believes that normalcy will only return after the entire global population is vaccinated from the coronavirus. But at no point does he say that people "won’t have a choice" about whether or not they’ll be vaccinated. 

We reached out to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, asking whether Gates believes that coronavirus vaccinations should be mandatory. In reply, spokespeople from the foundation wrote that "national governments will make the ultimate decision about how vaccines will be distributed in their own borders."

We should note that Gates has become a frequent target for disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. Conspiracy theorists have falsely claimed he is planning to use coronavirus vaccines to implant tracking devices in people, that he and Dr. Anthony Fauci are colluding to ruin the economy, and that he stands to reap enormous profits from the virus.  

Our ruling

A YouTube video appears to show Bill Gates saying that people "don’t have a choice" about whether they’ll receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

The video takes Gates out of context. He was actually saying that governments won’t be able to escape the economic impacts of the pandemic, even if they decide to reopen businesses before a vaccine is available. 

We rate this video False. ​

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YouTube video takes Bill Gates out of context on coronavirus vaccinations

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