Their aim is to “prevent more than 11 million deaths, 3.9 million disabilities, and 264 million illnesses by 2020”.
But did the couple refuse to vaccinate their own children? (Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of Africa Check’s funders, providing 18% of our income in 2018.)
So claims a story posted on Facebook in January 2019. Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme estimates that the article, published by Transcend.org, has been shared across the social network some 23,200 times.
No evidence given to support claim
The headline reads: “Bill Gates’ Former Doctor Says Billionaire ‘Refused to Vaccinate His Children’”.
It claims that during a medical symposium in Seattle, the tech billionaire’s former private doctor revealed that Gates had declined to have his own children vaccinated because they were “OK as it was” and “didn’t need any shots”.
Bill and Melinda Gates have three children, born in 1996, 1999 and 2002.
“I don’t know if he had them vaccinated as adults, but I can tell you he point blank refused to vaccinate them as children,” the article quotes the doctor as saying.
The symposium conveniently took place “behind closed doors” and the doctor’s name is not given. No other evidence is provided to support the claim.
‘No child should die a preventable death’
Politifact’s check of the claim rates it “pants on fire”.
It points out that the Gates family has spent US$15.3 billion on vaccines over the past 18 years. In their 2018 annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates describe this as a “terrific investment”.
Melinda Gates shared her own reasons for promoting vaccination in a 2018 Instagram post. “When my first child, Jenn, was born, over 800,000 children were dying each year of rotavirus - a preventable, curable disease,” she wrote.
“It broke my heart to imagine watching your child get sick and knowing that medicine could save her - if only you had access to it.
“That was a clarifying moment for me. No child should die a preventable death. Bill and I have dedicated our lives to reducing the number who do.”
The story is credited to Baxter Dmitry, a writer from YourNewsWire. The Poynter Institute for Media Studies describes YourNewsWire as “one of the most infamous misinformers on the internet”.
Despite having several of its stories debunked through Facebook’s third party fact-checking programme, YourNewsWire still manages to post fake news on the social network by changing headlines and moving to different website domains.
Having other sites publish its stories, as we see here, seems to be the latest trick. - Africa Check (10/04/19)
For publishers: what to do if your post is rated false
A fact-checker has rated your Facebook or Instagram post as “false”. What should you do? First, don't delete!
Click on our guide for the steps you should follow.
Africa Check teams up with Facebook
Africa Check is a partner in Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme to help stop the spread of false information on social media.
The content we rate as “false” will be downgraded on Facebook and Instagram. This means fewer people will see it.
You can also help identify false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.