What philanthropy has to do with vaccines, we would wonder, especially if the philanthropist is Bill Gates. The world’s richest man decided to give away the massive wealth he had amassed by selling computers. It was a philanthropy that the world had not witnessed earlier. Mr Gates, with his wife Bellinda, built up the foundation that would dispense wealth to the poor: Africa, India and a host of other countries in need of ‘healthcare.’
Why was Bill Gates funding India’s poor health sector? A partial but negative answer began to emerge in 2014, when the country’s Supreme Court raised questions about the operations of the foundation in some rural parts of India.
In 2009, tribal children from the Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh were administered with a Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine meant for cervical cancer. Around 16,000 girls between the age of 9-15 years were given three shots of vaccine, (manufactured by Merck) by the state health department. The girls were told that they were being given “well-being” shots. The incident started getting attention when some months later, several girls’ health deteriorated and the following year, five of them died. Two such similar cases of deaths were reported from Vadodara, Gujarat, where 14,000 tribal children were also vaccinated with the HPV vaccine Cervarix, made by Glaxo SmithKline.
Around the same time when these incidents were reported, young girls were hospitalised in northern Colombia with similar symptoms. Coincidentally, these girls had been given doses of vaccine too.
Skeletons started tumbling out when an NGO visited Andhra Pradesh. Health activists from the NGO Sama visited Khammam in March 2010 and found out that more than 100 girls were having epileptic seizures, stomach aches, headaches and mood swings. The girls also complained about early menstruation, heavy bleeding and menstrual cramps. Sama raised the issue that these students were made guinea pigs on the pretext of providing healthcare. The illiterate parents were kept in the dark about the real vaccine, and most of them gave their consent in the form of thumb prints.
The American NGO, Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) had carried out the studies. They were testing how the cervical cancer vaccine would react on young females. And this unethical test of Path was being funded by none other than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Ironically, the study was considered a success by the foundation. The Bill Gates Foundation also aided PATH in the study of Rotavirus vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine in Africa and Asia.
A few days after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared in 2009 that two HPV types cause 70% of cervical cancers, PATH started its five-year project across various parts of the world: Peru, Vietnam, Uganda, and India.
The lives of the poor have no value, especially if they are from the third world countries. The dark decisions of human testing are carried on without much fuss, and authorities prefer to look the other way when there are billions of dollars involved.
TVON supports ABBlood that has saved many precious lives.