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No, former US president Obama didn’t warn Africans against coronavirus vaccines

“Barack Obama is asking Africans not to accept vaccines that will come from America and Europe,” claims a screenshot of an Instagram post, published on Facebook 2 April 2020. The original comment on Instagram, from 31 March, has since been deleted.

The screenshot shows former US president Barack Obama. Obama, it says, “is asking Africans not to accept the vaccines that will come from America and Europe”. 

It then quotes Obama as saying: “I'm not going to allow white people to kill Africans with their toxic vaccines, I ask Africans to be smart, and to ensure that coronavirus vaccines do not enter African territories.” 

It goes on to say there is a “Machiavellian plan” to kill Africans with vaccines posing as “western aid”. 

“I will let this message be shared everywhere, to awaken African minds so that the vaccines do not arrive in Africa.”

Another Facebook post has the same Instagram screenshot in what appears to be, in turn, a screenshot of a WhatsApp message. So it may be circulating on WhatsApp as well. 

But has Obama warned Africans against accepting “coronavirus vaccines” developed in the US and Europe? We checked.

Warning not on Obama’s Twitter account

On his verified Twitter account, Obama has commented on the coronavirus crisis a number of times during March 2020. None of these tweets mention a vaccine, let alone a warning that such a vaccine should not be allowed into “African territories”.

In fact, using an advanced Twitter search, we found that Obama has tweeted about vaccines exactly twice – in 2013. The new coronavirus was only identified in December 2019. And the two tweets encouraged people to be vaccinated.

No vaccine against Covid-19 yet

Vaccines are substances that stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against certain diseases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

“Vaccines contain the same germs that cause disease … but they have been either killed or weakened to the point that they don’t make you sick,” the CDC explains. 

The World Health Organization says there is currently no vaccine to protect against Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. 

“Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials,” the WHO says.

No media reporting of what is a controversial statement

The Instagram post does not say when or where Obama is meant to have warned Africans against US and European vaccines, nor does it offer a source for the quote.

No other media outlet appears to have reported on Obama ever saying anything like this.

While he was still president in 2015, Obama encouraged US parents to vaccinate their children.

“I understand that there are families that, in some cases, are concerned about the effect of vaccinations. The science is, you know, pretty indisputable,” he said in January 2015.

In December 2014, Obama visited the US National Institutes of Health and praised them for the progress they had made towards developing an Ebola vaccine, a disease most prevalent on the African continent.  

It seems highly unlikely unlikely that Obama would not use any of his official channels to make such a controversial statement and that no major news network would report on it. 

(Note: We have reached out to his office for comment and will add it to this fact-check should they respond.)  – Naledi Mashishi


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