Mr. Bill Gates has through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed at least $1.75 billion to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this interview with selected journalists from across Africa, the billionaire, who stepped down as chairman of Microsoft Corp in 2014, shares insights on the impact of COVID-19 on the world, the current status of the global fight against the virus, and how partners can support countries in Africa and elsewhere to ensure an equitable global response.
You’ve talked before about the dangers of a vaccine grab, and yet this is exactly what we’re seeing unfold. Could you share your assessment of the impact the rush for this vaccine is going to have on Africa?
Well, the key to the vaccines is getting more approved and getting more factories into production. A lot of the work that the foundation has done is to back a variety of vaccines. Back in 2015 in my TED talk, I talked about the risk of a pandemic, and how we weren’t prepared. At that time, not much was done. The foundation, Wellcome Trust, the UK, Japan, and Norway did create a group called CEPI, which has helped a lot with a number of these vaccines.
With medicines, we always have this challenge with the big markets, the sales opportunities are in the rich countries. That’s why for diseases like HIV or malaria, the foundation reaches out to these companies and says, “We need to have some equitable approach.”
The first two vaccines that were approved are fairly costly to make and hard to scale up. They’re very good vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, but it’s the next three, including AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax that will give us the highest volumes, the ease of scaling, and thermal stability. And so, we’re hopeful that, particularly with some factories in India, that the foundation has helped to finance, which have larger factories than the factories in the West, within the next few months a large number of doses will come out of there and be targeted almost entirely at the developing world, which is the goal of what we call COVAX.