Bill Gates condemns anti-vaxx trend: "It's unfortunate"

"They're choosing to potentially infect somebody who can't protect themselves"

By Joanna Rothkopf

Published January 28, 2015 3:35PM (EST)

  (AP/John Minchillo)
(AP/John Minchillo)

While in Berlin for a conference of donors of the GAVI alliance (an organization that brings vaccines to the developing world), philanthropist Bill Gates condemned the anti-vaccination trend in rich Western countries. He also warned that we must prepare for "war" against the next pandemic.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse, Gates said that he was "concerned." "Our focus is on the poor children where you have millions that die of vaccine-preventable disease," he said, referring to his work with GAVI. "It's unfortunate that you're not getting 100 percent coverage in the rich countries."

"They're choosing to potentially infect somebody who can't protect themselves," he continued, referring to young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems making vaccinations dangerous. "I'm glad there are people who are championing reducing these misunderstandings in rich countries because of the risk that creates."

In the AFP interview, Bill Gates also stressed that the diminishing threat of the Ebola epidemic is no reason to relax. "A more difficult pathogen (than Ebola) could come along, a form of flu, a form of SARS or some type of virus that we haven't seen before," he said.

"We don't know it will happen but it's a high enough chance that one of the lessons of Ebola should be to ask ourselves: are we as ready for that as we should be? A good comparison is that we prepare ourselves for war -- we have planes and training and we practice."

His comments come just days after The Huffington Post published an interview with his wife, Melinda Gates, in which she also condemned anti-vaxxers.

"We take vaccines so for granted in the United States," she said. "Women in the developing world know the power of [vaccines]. They will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine, because they have seen death. [Americans have] forgotten what measles deaths look like."

The Gates' concerns are made as Disneyland reels from a measles outbreak that infected 52 people. The outbreak was "100 percent connected" to the anti-vaccine movement, said infectious disease specialist James Cherry. "It wouldn't have happened otherwise."

"I'd say to the people of the United States: we're incredibly lucky to have that technology and we ought to take full advantage of it," Melinda Gates added.

Joanna Rothkopf

MORE FROM Joanna RothkopfFOLLOW @joannarothkopf

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Anti-vaxx Bill Gates Global Health Measles Melinda Gates Vaccinations