Bill Gates has contributed more than $1.9 billion to fight COVID-19 and develop a vaccine, but he has more than science to contend with. A recent poll found that more than 44 percent of Republicans believe a conspiracy theory that says Gates created coronavirus in order to sell vaccines containing tracking chips to governments around the world.
Gates's philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has for years donated billions of dollars to vaccinate children against measles in the developing world. Gates has also spoken out about the potential for a global pandemic and urged leaders to prepare for one. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, conspiracy theorists point to this prediction as evidence that Gates must have created the virus himself in order to make money selling a special vaccine with tracking capabilities. More likely than not these theories are just a way to attack Gates for being an outspoken critic of President Trump.
Not the hill to die on — Gates during a call yesterday conceded that better tracking would be good so that healthcare workers can identify who has been immunized or hasn't, but he says that microchips aren't involved whatsoever — better medical records in the developing world are what he has in mind. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation receives money to buy vaccines, and Gates says his experience distributing those vaccines is what led him to see a pandemic coming.
It's not clear why Gates would be interested in bagging more money considering he's one of the wealthiest people in the world and years ago turned his focus towards giving it all away. It's fair to be skeptical of big corporations that frequently do bad things to make money and manage to harm society in the process. Not everything is evil, however, and there's no evidence here to stand on, just like there's no evidence that 5G causes cancer. The closest conspiracy theorists got was a coronavirus patent that one of Gates's donor recipients filed before the outbreak — but that was for a different coronavirus that affects poultry.
Gates is a smart guy, but if the tapes of his trainwreck 1990s antitrust testimony are anything, they're proof that he's not smart enough to pull one over on the world's scientists and global leaders.
Gates said that the conspiracy theories surrounding him are hard to deny because they're "so stupid." Trying to fight fact with fiction is a losing battle when any tiny detail can be spun into a fantastical story that needs to be disproven. As outlined in a story by The New York Times, originators of the theory likely created it not out of genuine belief but rather as a way to attack Gates for speaking out against Trump. Gates has been an outspoken critic of the president, especially as it relates to his coronavirus response. The theories about Gates have been spreading widely among right-wing personalities who want to discredit anyone who undermines Trump.
Anti-vaxxers are coming for COVID-19 — What's more concerning to Gates than baseless conspiracy theories is that such ideas might be seeping into the public consciousness and making people wary of taking a coronavirus vaccine whenever it's ready. No matter the origins, a certain group of people end up believing the fiction as truth. The anti-vaxx movement is already dangerous enough as is, threatening the lives of many because one parent read a post on Facebook claiming flu vaccines stunt growth and decided to not vaccine their child. The shocking acceptance now of theories about Gates could make it harder to reach herd immunity, or the point at which enough people are immune that COVID-19 cannot keep spreading.
Thankfully Gates says that despite the theories, governments and other groups across the world are still able to receive the funding they need to develop a vaccine. Now we just need social media platforms to step up and do more work taking down such misinformation, though they don't exactly have a good track record with that.