Video shows protest against lockdowns in the US as search for vaccine continues

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A video showing protesters chanting “arrest Bill Gates” has been shared thousands of times on Instagram and Facebook, with claims that Americans want the billionaire arrested for producing a new vaccine for the novel coronavirus. This is misleading; no vaccine exists yet for COVID-19, while the demonstration in question was organised for other reasons.

The video, posted on Instagram and archived here, alleged that Americans wanted Gates arrested after he “produced the COVID-19 vaccine”. 

The same video appeared in an article, which has been shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle. The article claimed that Gates aimed to profit from a vaccine and was concealing the “motivation behind the widespread virus”.

A screenshot taken on May 11, 2020, showing the misleading post

The claim has also been shared here, here, here and here

Video of Texas anti-lockdown rally

Using video verification tool WeVerify,  AFP traced the clip to this tweet, which reads:  “Second protest in Austin, TX. Alex Jones leads chants of ‘Arrest Bill Gates’ #ReopenTexas”.

A screenshot taken on May 11, 2020, showing the earliest version of the video found by AFP

The video was taken at a Texas protest led by Infowars host Alex Jones, who has been banned from all major social media networks, except Twitter.

It was first published by a Twitter user, and reproduced in one Infowars article. This was the second such protest; the first was reported by AFP here.

The protests were primarily in opposition to coronavirus lockdowns and called for the reopening of the US economy. A few people carried placards denouncing vaccines.

No Gates vaccine for COVID-19

Gates is indeed funding vaccine development but none has been fully developed yet. His involvement in public health has made him a target for online misinformation.

In a February 2020 press release, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it was pledging up to $100 million in immediate funding toward “the global response to the 2019 novel coronavirus”, including vaccination research and development.

Its best-case scenario suggests that if “everything goes to plan, 12 to 18 months from now [April 28, 2020], the first COVID-19 vaccines will start to roll out of one of those plants in bulk”. 

 WHO leading vaccine research

The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading research and development for a COVID-19 vaccine but has not had a breakthrough yet.

In May 2020, the WHO said that “the COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on the need for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, at least 43 of which are currently in development”. 

“After the necessary trials in humans, the hope is that one or more of these candidate vaccines will emerge as a safe and cost-effective response to the pandemic – possibly in the next twelve months.” 

Mayowa Tijani