In a recent spate of conspiracy theories aimed at maligning Bill Gates, social media is filled with claims linking the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with paralyzing 496,000 children in India with their polio vaccine between 2000 and 20017. However, the claims appear to have no truth whatsoever.
Since the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic, Bill Gates has been embroiled in a series of fake news related to the vaccine projects either sponsored or undertaken by his foundation.
According to AFP Fact Check, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has supported anti-polio efforts in India through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership that includes the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
What Is The Claim?
In a Facebook post, dated 14 April, a user claimed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "tested a polio vax in India between 2000 & 2017 and paralyzed 496,000 children. Fact!" The post has been shared 17,000 times since then. It has also received 19,000 likes.
According to PolitiFact, the claim is traced back to an Instagram post made by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of former US president John F. Kennedy and head of the California based World Mercury Project, on his account on April 7.
Termed to be one of the biggest sources of anti-vaccine advertisements on Facebook, the organization has been quite vocal against vaccines. In the lengthy post, Kennedy wrote: "Promising to eradicate Polio with $1.2 billion, Gates took control of India 's National Advisory Board (NAB) and mandated 50 polio vaccines (up from 5) to every child before age 5. Indian doctors blame the Gates campaign for a devastating vaccine-strain polio epidemic that paralyzed 496,000 children between 2000 and 2017."
"In 2017, the Indian Government dialed back Gates' vaccine regimen and evicted Gates and his cronies from the NAB. Polio paralysis rates dropped precipitously. In 2017, the World Health Organization reluctantly admitted that the global polio explosion is predominantly vaccine strain, meaning it is coming from Gates' Vaccine Program," he went on to add.
Is It Possible to Contract Polio From Vaccine?
According to the WHO, even though quite rare, it is possible to contract polio from vaccines. In a report, WHO estimated that 1 in 2.7 million oral doses results in vaccine-associated paralytic polio.
Vaccine-derived polioviruses (VDPVs) are rare strains of poliovirus that have genetically mutated from the strain contained in the oral polio vaccine. They can change into a form capable of paralyzing known as circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV).
Data provided by WHO revealed that there were 17 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus cases recorded in India between 2000 and 2017. The data shows that the cVDPV circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus cases were recorded in India only in 2009 and 2010.
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Call the Allegations False
In a mail sent to AFP Fact Check, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called the claims fake. "These claims are false. Polio is just one reason a child may develop Acute Flaccid Paralysis," read the mail.
In a press note issued in February 2017, the Indian government confirmed that they had not severed ties with the foundation. "Some media reports have suggested that all health-related collaboration with the Gates Foundation with the National Health Mission (NHM) has been stopped. This is inaccurate and misleading. BMGF continues to collaborate and support the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare," read the note.
India was declared polio-free by WHO in 2014. There was no evidence confirming the dubious claims in the social media posts about nearly half a million Indian children either contracting polio or rendered paralyzed.