India Cuts Ties With Bill Gates Following Illegal Cancer Vaccine Tests
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation replaced by health ministry.
India has cut ties with Bill Gates - the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - that works on India's immunization programs and will now be partially funded by the health ministry.
The move was said to be prompted by fears of foreign donors influencing policy making but didn't mention that he had used 30,000 Indian girls as Guinee pigs to test a Cancer vaccine.
In 2015, doctors sued Bill Gates for harming children with vaccines.
Reuters reports: The decision is seen as part of India's broader clampdown on non-governmental organizations to assert control over decision making in key policy areas. Last year, India ordered the dismissal of dozens of foreign-funded health experts working on public welfare schemes.
The Gates Foundation has for years funded the Immunization Technical Support Unit (ITSU), which provides strategy and monitoring advice for New Delhi's massive immunization program that covers about 27 million infants each year.
A key unit of ITSU that assisted the country's apex body on immunization will now be funded by the government as it felt there was a need to completely manage it on its own, senior health ministry official Soumya Swaminathan told Reuters.
"There was a perception that an external agency is funding it, so there could be influence," Swaminathan said on Wednesday.
Swaminathan, however, stressed there were no instances of influence found and the decision was only in part prompted by a wider perception about foreign funding of the program.
Other operations at ITSU – such as tracking vaccination coverage and logistics management - would continue to receive funding from the Gates Foundation, she said. She had earlier said the entire ITSU funding would move to the health ministry.
A spokeswoman for the foundation said its grant for the ITSU ends this month. "We are in advanced stages of discussion with the ministry on the contours of the next phase of technical support," she said.
Critics have in the past raised concerns the foundation should not have any association with the program due to apparent conflicts of interest. That's because the foundation also backs GAVI, a global vaccine alliance that counts big pharmaceutical companies as its partners.
India's immunization program vaccinates children to shield them from life-threatening conditions such as measles and polio, and is viewed by experts as crucial for improving public health.
"The government must ensure that universal immunization does not suffer in any way," said Keshav Desiraju, a former federal health secretary.
BMGF, the charity funded by the personal wealth of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has enjoyed good relations with the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.