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Photo does not show African children disabled by vaccines

May 5, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: A photo shows a group of children who were left disabled by a vaccination program in Africa. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The image was taken in 1998 in Sierra Leone and shows children affected by polio because they were not vaccinated.

THE FACTS: The coronavirus pandemic has led to a flood of misinformation targeting vaccines. 

The photograph being misrepresented online was taken by French photographer Jean-Marc Giboux, who was commissioned by the World Health Organization to document the effects of polio on the population due to lack of vaccination.


“I shot this picture in 1998 in Sierra Leone,” Giboux told the AP in an email. “They were kids in a center for children affected with polio, and it was during the Sierra Leone civil war.”

Facebook posts sharing the photo online claimed the opposite.

“This was the results of Vaccine trials on Africans. And no one has ever answered for this,” claimed one Facebook post circulating the photos. “Keep your vaccines.”

The photo was also misrepresented in Spanish with claims that wrongly cited Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his foundation as responsible for crippling the children through their vaccine work. 

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made eradicating polio worldwide one of its primary goals, supporting vaccination campaigns globally. 

“Polio eradication is one of our top priorities, and as a major supporter of the GPEI (Global Polio Eradication Initiative), we contribute technical and financial resources to accelerate targeted vaccination campaigns, community mobilization, and routine immunizations,” the foundation says on its website.  


This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: