IN SHORT: The Covid-19 pandemic saw not only disease spread worldwide, but misinformation too. Much of this has been around how vaccines do or don’t work. A recent claim that Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates wants to “‘force-jab’ the unvaccinated” through vaccinated livestock is in this vein – pure fabrication.
Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of Africa Check’s funders, providing 11% of our income in 2020.
A blurry screenshot of what looks like a news article has been doing the rounds on Facebook. It has the headline: “Bill Gates vows to pump mRNA into food supply to ‘force-jab’ the unvaccinated.”
Below a photo of Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and a tweet attributed to him, it says “mRNA vaccines in livestock and companion animals are here now”.
The tweet in the screenshot reads: “Vaccines in our food supply solves the problem of vaccine hesitancy.”
The screenshot has been circulating on Facebook in South Africa.
Other similar posts include the same text in a screenshot but credit the claim to Baxter Dmitry, a contributor to the known misinformation-spreader website News Punch.
Messenger-RNA, or mRNA, vaccines use messenger RNA to teach our cells how to make the protein that will trigger an immune response to a virus, such as Sars-CoV-2 which causes Covid-19.
While mRNA-vaccines have long been in development, they became prominent when two of the most widely administered vaccines against Covid-19 worldwide used the technology. These are the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
This has also given rise to a number of conspiracy theories about mRNA-vaccines, some of which Africa Check has debunked.
US-born Gates has often been the subject of false claims spreading vaccine misinformation. So we proceeded carefully in investigating this claim.
Gates tweet does not exist
We first searched Gates’s Twitter account for the tweet in the screenshot, but came up empty.
A spokesperson for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told USA Today in January 2023 that the tweet featured in the post is not authentic.
A Google search using the keywords “Bill Gates”, “vaccines” and “livestock” led us to a video posted on Twitter in 2018 by the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Bill Gates says some of the world’s best research is taking place in Edinburgh. @gatesfoundation and @DFID_UK today announced millions of pounds in funding to tackle global health challenges. pic.twitter.com/D3DZ5w6jyN— The University of Edinburgh (@EdinburghUni) January 26, 2018
The caption of the video reads: “Bill Gates says some of the world’s best research is taking place in Edinburgh. @gatesfoundation and @DFID_UK today announced millions of pounds in funding to tackle global health challenges.”
In the video, Gates said that the Gates Foundation had partnered with the Department for International Development, or DFID, a department of the UK government, to sponsor research done at the University of Edinburgh.
Gates said that this work with livestock helped “animals survive either by having vaccines or better genetics, helping them be more productive”. But there is no mention of mRNA vaccines or “vaccine hesitancy” in the short clip.
The disease Covid-19 emerged in late 2019 and the ensuing pandemic was first reported in the media in early 2020. The research referenced by Gates in the 2018 video is unrelated to Covid-19 vaccines. But we could find no other evidence of Gates mentioning livestock or animal vaccines.
No SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for livestock, vaccines not transmitted through food
According to the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, a levy board funded by farmers and growers, vaccines in livestock are important to prevent disease.
Examples of the vaccines available for livestock include vaccines for bovine viral diarrhoea in cattle and against anthrax in sheep. There have also been trials for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines for animals, including dogs, cats and foxes. But there is currently no Covid-19 vaccine available for livestock.
There is also ongoing research into developing mRNA vaccines for veterinary use.
But there is no reason to believe that eating an animal or animal byproduct that has been vaccinated gives you immunity against the same disease. This is not how vaccines work.
As Timothy Mahony, a researcher at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation's Centre for Animal Science in Australia, told AFP on 25 January: “There is no scientific basis for the claim that if someone was to consume meat or other tissues from an animal that had been vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine, it would enter their body.”
Bill Gates has not “vowed” to force vaccines on the unvaccinated through the food supply. And even if he had made such an outlandish threat, on Twitter or elsewhere, he would not have been able to carry it out, as it is not scientifically possible.
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