The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wasn’t kicked out of India

30 June 2020
What was claimed

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was kicked out of India.

Our verdict


What was claimed

Bill Gates’ polio vaccine permanently disabled 47,000 children in India.

Our verdict

This is based on a paper which claims that the polio vaccine increases the incidence of paralysis caused by things that aren’t polio. This is far from certain.

A viral Facebook post claims that Bill Gates’ polio vaccine permanently disabled 47,000 children in India and the Gates family was “kicked out of India for this”. 

The post claims this is “100% proven”. It is not. 

The claim that the Gates Foundation was kicked out of India is perhaps a distortion of news back in 2017 that the Indian government would partially fund an immunisation program in New Delhi.

Before this, the Gates Foundation had funded the program, and senior health ministry official Soumya Swaminathan told Reuters at the time: “There was a perception that an external agency is funding it, so there could be influence.”

When people started claiming that the Gates Foundation had been kicked out of India, the Indian government said this was not true and that “BMGF [The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation] continues to collaborate and support the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.” 

The Foundation continues to work in India. 

The claim the Gates Foundation disabled 47,000 children seems to come from a 2012 paper which claims that “non-polio acute flaccid paralysis” (NPAFP) was more common in areas of India with higher uptake of the oral polio vaccine. The Foundation funds polio vaccine eradication efforts

The paper says that in 2011, there were an extra 47,500 cases of NPAFP above the “standard” 2 cases per 100,000 people “that is generally accepted as the norm”. 

US fact checking website PolitiFact reported on a similar claim, that the Foundation had paralysed 496,000 children from a polio vaccine administered between 2000 and 2017.

This figure comes from a 2018 paper making the same argument, claiming that there were an “additional 491,000 paralyzed children above our expected numbers for children with NPAFP” between 2000 and 2017.

It is true that the observed incidence of NPAFP cases increased in the late 2000s and has stayed relatively high, but this doesn’t mean the polio vaccine was necessarily the cause.

Back in 2013 the BBC reported that public health officials said that the increase could be put down to the fact that monitoring of cases of paralysis, whether caused by polio or not, was better than in previous decades. 

Data from the National Polio Surveillance Project unit shows that while cases of NPAFP increased in the mid-2000s in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where the vaccination work was concentrated, the incidence of polio-related AFP also increased before falling away. 

This would support the theory about increased monitoring.

While there may be a statistical correlation between the number of vaccination doses and cases of NPAFP, we’ve found no evidence or theory which explains why this might be the case. NPAFP is caused by other viruses and bacteria besides polio. 

However other countries, including the UK, have also observed increased reports of unexplained AFP. 

It’s worth noting that the polio vaccine can itself result in cases of “vaccine-associated paralytic polio” according to the World Health Organisation, but the rate is incredibly low. Approximately 1 in 2.7 million doses of the oral polio vaccine are associated with paralytic polio. 

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