FactCheck Social Media

Conspiracy Insta post misrepresents Gates interview in false claims

2020-05-28 15:19:44

The Statement

A social media post claims Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft founder currently backing research into a COVID-19 vaccine, “admits” hundreds of thousands of people could die from side effects of a vaccine.

The May 18 Instagram post, from an account called “freedom_faction”, reads: “Bill Gates Admits That As Many As 700,000 People Could Die From The COVID-19 Vaccine He Keeps Insisting Everyone Must Take When It’s Ready”.

A video embedded in the post uses edited footage from an interview Mr Gates did on US cable television channel CNBC in April, 2020.

Text accompanying the post reads: “#BillGates openly admitted that upwards of 700,000 people could become injured or die from these jabs”.

The post has been viewed more than 48,000 times.

Screenshot of Instagram post
 An Insta post falsely claims Bill Gates said up to 700,000 people could die from a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The Analysis

Bill Gates has been prominent in the global fight against COVID-19 – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed US$250 million to respond to the pandemic, including searching for vaccines for the coronavirus.

His high profile has resulted in him being the target of false claims and conspiracy theories.

The Instagram post uses footage cut from a 26-minute interview with Mr Gates that was shown on CNBC on April 9.

In the Instagram video, in which the audio has been made slightly out of synchronisation with the vision, Mr Gates is shown saying:

“Efficacy in vaccines in older people is always a huge challenge. You know  it turns out the flu vaccine isn’t that effective in elderly people;  we clearly need a vaccine that works in the upper age range because they’re most at risk of that. And doing that so that you amp it up so it works in older people, and yet you don’t have side effects, you know, if we have one in 10,000 side effects, that’s… way more, 700,000, ah… people who will suffer from that. And that actual decision of, OK, let’s go and give this vaccine to the entire world – governments will have to be involved because there will be some risk and indemnification needed ”

The video has been edited to cut out parts of Mr Gates’s answer. Below is the full transcript from the relevant section of the interview. The full interview is on the CNBC website.

The relevant starts at the 11 minute, 36 second mark. The parts of Mr Gates’s response left out in the Instagram video are shown in bold. Mr Gates says:

“The efficacy in vaccines in older people is always a huge challenge. You know it turns out the flu vaccine isn’t that effective in elderly people; most of the benefit comes from younger people not spreading it because they’re vaccinated, and that benefits, on a community basis, the elderly.

Here, we clearly need a vaccine that works in the upper age range because they’re most at risk of that. And doing that so that you amp it up so it works in older people, and yet you don’t have side effects. You know if we have one in 10,000 side effects, that’s… way more – 700,000… people who will suffer from that.

So, really understanding the safety at gigantic scale across all age ranges…  – pregnant, male, female, undernourished, existing comorbidities – it’s very, very hard. And that actual decision of, OK, let’s go and give this vaccine to the entire world – governments will have to be involved because there will be some risk and indemnification needed before that can be decided on.”

The text in the Instagram post claims Mr Gates “freely admits” a vaccine “will seriously injure or even kill upwards of 700,000 people”. This is false. What Mr Gates says – evident even in the edited video – is that a vaccine is needed that works in older people “and yet you don’t have side effects”. At no point does he say a vaccine will injure or kill upwards of 700,000 people.

Also edited out are the parts of Mr Gates’s response that say “understanding the safety at gigantic scale … it’s very, very hard” and governments will need to be involved because of the risk and indemnification needed “before that (administering a vaccine) can be decided on”.

The figure of 700,000 relates to a statement Mr Gates makes earlier in the interview, at the 9 minutes, 30 seconds mark. He says making seven billion doses of a vaccine (seven billion being close to the current global population of 7.7 billion) “is going to be an incredible challenge”.

One in every 10,000 people out of a population of seven billion people, equals 700,000 people.

Bill Gates
 Bill Gates’s work to support vaccine research has attracted false claims and conspiracy theories. 

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Instagram post to be false. The post falsely claims Mr Gates said as many as 700,000 could die or be injured by a COVID-19 vaccine. Mr Gates makes no such statement. The video interview included in the post has been edited to remove his reference to the need to understand safety. The post also ignores the fact that Mr Gates says in the interview – even in the edited video – that a vaccine has to be developed in order that “you don’t have side effects.

False – The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles. https://aap.com.au/