Fact check: Melinda Gates said black people deserve priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Facebook posts, shared thousands of times, claim Melinda Gates has said black people must be vaccinated first for COVID-19, after health care workers. Though Gates did argue that African-Americans, second to health care workers, should be given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available, she did not say that they “must be vaccinated first.” The headline and its interpretation on Facebook is misleading.

Examples of posts can be found here , here , and here .  

The posts have misled users into believing that Gates wants to test the COVID-19 vaccine on black people. Comments include, “We are not crash test dummies, we’ll go after you,” “Now that is a very racist remark. Uncalled for, how dare she,” and “Hmmm in other words we’re the guinea pigs.”

In an interview with TIME Magazine on June 4, 2020, Gates said, “The first people that need this vaccine are the 60 million health care workers around the world. They deserve to get it before anybody else. Then you start tiering.” Answering the question of who has the highest need for COVID-19 vaccines after health care workers, Gates answered, “In the U.S., that would be black people next, quite honestly, and many other people of color. They are having disproportionate effects from COVID-19.” (here )  

Black Americans are more likely to die from COVID-19, reflecting longstanding disparities in health and inequalities in access to medical care.  By early April in Illinois, for example, black people had made up about 30% of cases and about 40% of coronavirus-related deaths, according to statistics provided by the state’s public health agency. African-Americans make up just 14.6% of the state’s population (  here  ).  

Meanwhile in New York City, the wealthy, mostly white enclave of Gramercy Park in Manhattan has a rate of 31 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to data released by New York City’s health department; a long subway ride away in Far Rockaway in the borough of Queens, which is more than 40% black and 25% Latino or Hispanic, the death rate is nearly 15 times higher: 444 deaths per 100,000 residents (  here  ).  


Misleading. Melinda Gates did not say that “black people must be vaccinated first” but that, after health care workers, they should have priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine once available due to the pandemic disproportionately affecting people of color.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .