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Fact Check-Bill Gates did not say COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective

A snippet of an interview with Bill Gates has been taken out of context by social media users who claim the billionaire philanthropist “admitted” that COVID-19 vaccines are not very effective.

Versions of the claim have been seen by nearly a million people across Twitter (here and here) and Facebook (here).

One tweet with high engagement reads: “This is an explicit acknowledgment that the mRNA and rAdV vaccines for COVID are not working well.”

However, this is a misrepresentation of the words used by Gates, who was speaking to Britain’s former health secretary Jeremy Hunt on Nov. 5 about a variety of topics including COVID-19, foreign aid and climate change.

The interview was arranged by Policy Exchange, a British think tank (see the full clip here).

When asked by Hunt about preparedness for the next pandemic, Gates responded: “I would expect that will lead the [research and development] budgets to be focused on things we didn’t have today.

“We didn’t have vaccines that block transmission. We got vaccines that help you with your health, but they only slightly reduce the transmission. So, we need a new way of doing the vaccines” (from timestamp, 27:25).

It is true that current COVID-19 vaccines do not halt transmission of the virus (here). However, they are highly effective at preventing severe disease.

Scientists have estimated that COVID-19 vaccines saved 140,000 lives in the United States up to May (here).

In Britain, health experts said in June that vaccines had saved 27,000 lives in England alone (here).

Research is also underway into new types of vaccines that could potentially block transmission as well as offering health protection (here).

VERDICT

Missing context. Bill Gates’ words have been taken out of context. He did not say COVID-19 vaccines are not working very well; rather, he said preparation for the next pandemic will likely include research on vaccines that stop virus transmission, something they do not do now.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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