October 13, 2021

Over the years, many claims have misrepresented Bill Gates’ views on how expanding access to health care — including vaccines — will lead people to have smaller families.

An Oct. 6 article published on the website Tech Startups added a new claim to the list by alleging that 11 years ago, Bill Gates talked about reducing the global population by 10% to 15% “using new vaccines for population control.”

“Bill Gates talked about using vaccines to control population growth, here is the unedited 2010 TED Talk video,” the headline said.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

TechStartups included a YouTube clip of Gates’ 2010 TEDTalk presentation called “Innovating to zero!” His presentation focused on lowering carbon dioxide emissions down to zero. (YouTube has since removed the clip “for violating YouTube’s Community Guidelines.”)

In the clip, Gates introduces a mathematical equation to calculate the amount of global emissions and how to lower them. Part of that equation included the size of the global population.

“The world today has 6.8 billion people. That’s headed up to about 9 billion,” Gates said. “Now, if we do a really great job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we could lower that by, perhaps, 10 or 15%.”

The full video is 27 minutes and available on the TEDTalk website. Gates’ comment about the population was a fragment of his speech. He spoke largely about the types of energy and actions that produce CO2, and proposed a solution of energy measures, like nuclear, wind and solar, that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions a great deal by 2050.

His point about vaccines has been commonly misconstrued as a plot to depopulate the planet. In 2018, PolitiFact debunked a similar claim.

Melinda Gates wrote this in the former couple’s annual letter: “When more children live past age five, and when mothers can decide if and when to have children, population sizes don’t go up. They go down. Parents have fewer children when they’re confident those children will survive into adulthood. Big families are in some ways an insurance policy against the tragic likelihood of losing a son or a daughter.”

Bill Gates further outlined the idea in a separate video, showing a chart that illustrated the inclining growth rate of the world’s population and the effect of improving health care.

“What we found is that as health improves, families choose to have less children, and this effect is very, very dramatic,” Gates said. “We find that in every country of the world, this is repeated.”

Our ruling

A website article claimed that Bill Gates advocated for reducing the global population by using vaccines during a 2010 TedTalk.

Gates wasn’t talking about reducing the population through vaccination. He and his former wife Melinda have repeatedly said that child mortality is lowered when families have access to life-saving vaccines and health care, allowing families to choose to have fewer children.

We rate this claim False.

This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for this fact check here and more of their fact checks here.

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Gabrielle Settles is a reporter covering misinformation for PolitiFact. Previously, she was a staff writer for The Weekly Challenger and staff member and reporter for…
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