Hoax claim that ‘Bill Gates refused to vaccinate his own children’

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda Gates have spent billions of dollars on researching, developing and delivering vaccines to children across the world.

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 a funding partner of Africa Check.)

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.”

‘Infamous misinformer’

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

You’ve posted an image, a video, a statement or a link to an article on Facebook or Instagram. And a fact-checker has rated it “false”, “partly false” or “false headline”.

This could mean fewer people will see your page. What should you do? First, don't delete!

Click on our guide below for the steps you should follow.

Publishers guide

Africa Check teams up with Facebook

Africa Check has partnered with Facebook to combat fake news and false information on the social platform. This fact-check is part of the initiative.

As part of its third-party fact-checking programme, Facebook allows its partners to see public articles, pictures or videos that have been flagged as potentially inaccurate.

Content rated as “false” by fact-checkers will be downgraded in news feeds. This means fewer people will see it.

You can help us identify fake news and false information on Facebook. This guide explains how.

© Copyright Africa Check 2020. Read our republishing guidelines. You may reproduce this piece or content from it for the purpose of reporting and/or discussing news and current events. This is subject to: Crediting Africa Check in the byline, keeping all hyperlinks to the sources used and adding this sentence at the end of your publication: “This report was written by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website", with a link back to this page.