The Gates Foundation did not paralyse 300,000 children in India

27 March 2024
What was claimed

The Gates Foundation paralysed 300,000 children in India following a vaccine trial.

Our verdict

There is no evidence to suggest this happened. The Gates Foundation has confirmed it is false.

There is no evidence to suggest the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has paralysed more than 300,000 children as a result of testing vaccines in India, as has been claimed online.

In the examples Full Fact has seen, those sharing the claim have supplied no evidence to support it, and we could find no credible media reports that it happened. The Gates Foundation has also confirmed with us that it is false. 

The claim—which has been posted on X (formerly Twitter) and across Facebook—says: “Bill Gates has paralyzed over 300k kids testing vaccines in India”. Although the Gates Foundation has supported a wide range of health projects in India, it is not true that any of these projects has paralysed thousands of children. 

False or misleading claims online have the potential to harm individuals, groups and institutions, particularly if they are used to make  health decisions. Online claims can spread fast and far, and are difficult to contain and correct.

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What does this claim refer to?

The posts don’t mention either a particular vaccine or a time period in relation to these children, or a source for the information, so there isn’t any evidence for us to check.

However, we have previously fact checked false claims about vaccine projects involving the Gates Foundation in India, and neither of these vaccines paralysed 300,000 children.

HPV trials

In October 2023, we determined that there was no evidence that thousands of Indian girls were injured or disabled by the HPV vaccine in 2009, as had been claimed. It was also incorrect to say that the Gates Foundation had been “kicked out of India” as a result.

In this case, a study funded by a Gates Foundation grant gave the vaccine to around 24,000 girls. The study was suspended in 2010 following reports that some of the girls had died, but an Indian government committee subsequently found that the deaths—which included some involving drowning, malaria and a suspected snake bite—were “most probably unrelated to the vaccine”

The committee also found that reporting on adverse events after immunisation was inadequate.

Both vaccines used in the study had been approved for use in India, and the US Food and Drug Administration has said that studies of tens of thousands of women were conducted to evaluate their safety. 

Polio vaccinations

The 300,000 figure in these posts might be a misunderstanding of the Indian government’s 2016 plans to vaccinate around 300,000 children against the polio virus, after a strain was detected in sewage in the city of Hyderabad.

The Gates Foundation has supported polio vaccination programmes in India, although we don’t know whether its donations contributed to this campaign.

When vaccination happens with the oral polio vaccine, there is an extremely small risk of paralysis as a side effect. As the WHO explains: “In very rare cases, the administration of OPV results in vaccine-associated paralysis associated with a reversion of the vaccine strains to the more neurovirulent profile of wild poliovirus.”

But research suggests that the chances of this happening are around one in 1 million, or one in 2.7 million.

We also cannot find any reports of anything like this happening on a large scale in India.

We’ve previously checked false claims about the Gates Foundation supposedly disabling children in India with the polio vaccine as well. In 2020, US fact checkers Politifact also checked unevidenced claims the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "tested a polio vax in India between 2000 & 2017 and paralysed 496,000 children".

Gates is a frequent target for misinformation

The Foundation and Mr Gates himself are often the subject of misinformation and conspiracy theories, particularly those involving vaccines.

We’ve previously checked false claims that Bill Gates called for all Covid-19 vaccines to be withdrawn, that he suggested that they didn’t work, and that all McDonald’s French fries come from hisgenetically modified potato farm”.

Image courtesy of Lukasz Kobus

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