A video claiming that 48,000 children in India were paralyzed after taking a vaccine linked to Bill Gates has been shared over 2500 times on Twitter. The video contains footage of Gates being questioned about the allegedly adverse effects of polio vaccines funded by his charitable foundation.
Through his charitable foundation, Bill Gates has directed funding to the research and distribution of vaccines in numerous counties, including India. There is no evidence, however, that any such vaccines have been responsible for causing 48,000 Indian children to suffer from paralysis.
Variations of this claim have arisen several times, having previously circulated on Facebook. They appear to be inspired by a paper published in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics in 2012. The paper, which urges the Indian government to abandon polio immunization efforts, claims that in 2011, the country experienced 47,500 excess cases of non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP). It states that these incidents appear to correlate with the number of polio vaccines administered in the country.
Despite the claims made in the video and the paper upon which it appears to be based, there is no evidence to support a strong link between the polio vaccine and NPAFP. Crucially, the condition may be caused by a range of bacteria and viruses unrelated to polio vaccines. The BBC has previously reported a belief among public health officials that improvements in monitoring – implemented alongside vaccination efforts – may also be responsible for contributing to the impression that cases have risen sharply.
It is worth noting that, in rare cases, instances of paralysis have been associated with polio vaccines. The Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) contains a version of the polio virus that has been weakened to prevent serious symptomatic infection. Once in the body, it replicates and triggers an immune response, which is intended to train the body to respond to wild strains of the virus. There are instances in which the modified virus contained within OPVs may mutate, becoming transmissible and causing neurological problems in affected individuals. Such occurrences are extremely rare, with only 750 cases reported worldwide in the decade leading up to 2015, despite millions of OPV doses being administered over the same period. The Center for Disease Control notes that vaccine-derived polioviruses tend to circulate in under-vaccinated communities, where a lack of immunity allows weakened strains to circulate.
While in exceedingly rare cases, certain polio vaccines can result in symptomatic infection and potential paralysis, there is no evidence that they are responsible for paralyzing 48,000 children in India as alleged in the video.