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Bill Gates did not say 700,000 people will have negative side effects from a coronavirus vaccine

July 22, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: In an interview, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he expects 700,000 people to develop negative side effects from a coronavirus vaccine.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Gates used the number 700,000 theoretically, to demonstrate how important it is to create a vaccine that works for older age groups without side effects.

THE FACTS: In an April 9 interview for CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Gates discussed the coronavirus pandemic and his efforts to help produce a COVID-19 vaccine.

In the days after the interview, posts began circulating online falsely claiming that Gates admitted the vaccine would kill 700,000 people.

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Though those claims were widely debunked, clips and excerpts from the interview again began circulating in July. 

Posts and false news articles circulating on July 22 claimed Gates had grim projections for the vaccine and its effects on humans.

“He’s expecting 700,000 people to have negative side effects,” wrote one Facebook user, in a post viewed by more than 40,000 people in two days. 

“700,000 potential injuries from Covid vaccine according to Gates himself,” read another post on Twitter. “But WHO & Big Public Health will still find a way to blame the victims.”

Such posts don’t accurately represent what Gates said in the interview. 

Asked about the timeline for the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, Gates said creating effective vaccines for older populations is always a challenge. He then referred to the number 700,000 in a hypothetical example to illustrate the importance of creating a vaccine that is effective without side effects.

“Here, we clearly need a vaccine that works in the upper age range because they’re most at risk of that,” Gates said. “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 1 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 — you know, 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.”

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation confirmed in a statement that Gates’ reference was hypothetical.

“Strong scientific evidence shows that vaccines are safe and they have a proven track record of preventing diseases,” the statement said. “Experts believe that a vaccine against COVID-19 will be critical to ending this pandemic ​once clinical trials show that they are safe and effective in a broad group of people.”

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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: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536