In order for the world to better contain the spread of the coronavirus, Leaders of the Group of 20, G-20, major economies of the world, should provide more funding to develop a vaccine, Bill Gates has said.
In an opinion piece provided in South Korea, exclusively to Yonhap News Agency, on Sunday, Gates, the co-Founder of Microsoft, noted that Covid-19 had not yet affected many low and middle-income countries, and said that World Leaders, particularly the G-20 members, should step up efforts to keep it that way, because it is “likely only a matter of time, before one part of the planet reinfects another”.
Through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Business Magnate has been an active Philanthropist, and has waged fights against diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and polio.
Gates laid down three steps for the global Leaders: ensuring proper distribution of resources, such as masks and diagnostic tests; offering Research and Development, R&D, funding for a vaccine; and manufacturing and delivering the vaccine.
Addressing protective equipment, Gates said: “Eventually, we hope there will be enough for everyone”, but he added that some hard choices should be made in smart ways, so that resources reach the right people, rather than simply “the highest bidder”.
“The private sector has an important role to play, but if our strategy for fighting Covid-19 devolves into a bidding war among countries, this disease will kill many more people than it has to”, Gates warned.
“We need to deploy resources based on public health and medical need.”
Gates stated that veterans of the Ebola and HIV epidemics, could help develop guidelines for that, and that World Leaders should work with the World Health Organisation, WHO, to put them on paper, to hold all participating countries accountable.
Gates then called on Leaders to commit R&D funding to develop a vaccine.
He said that the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, CEPI, launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and various governments, are developing “at least eight potential vaccines” for Covid-19, with expectations that at least one would be ready within 18 months.
Gates noted that it would be “the fastest humans have ever gone from seeing a brand new pathogen to developing a vaccine against it”, but the timeline will depend on funding.
According to him, many nations have contributed to the CEPI, within the past two weeks, but the Coalition needs at least $2 billion for their work.
“That is only a rough number; innovation is an unpredictable business, but the G-20 Leaders should make meaningful pledges now”, he added.
He stated that funding should not stop there, because the price tag does not include the cost of manufacturing and delivering the vaccine.
“We are are not sure which vaccines will be the most effective yet, and each requires unique technology to make.
“That means nations need to invest in many different kinds of manufacturing facilities now, knowing that some will never be used.
“Otherwise, we will waste months, after the Lab develops an immunisation, waiting for the right manufacturer to scale up”, he said.
Gates added that any Covid-19 vaccine must be classified as a “global public good”, and remain affordable and accessible to all.
He cited the example of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an organisation that has worked with the WHO and the United Nations, UN, Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to introduce 13 new vaccines to the world’s 73 poorest countries. Gavi set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in 1999, will need “$7.4 billion over the next five years”, just to maintain its current immunisation effort. Delivering a Covid-19 vaccine will be more costly.
“These multibillion-dollar price tags may seem like a lot of money, especially at a time when entire economies are slowing to a halt”, Gates said.
“But they are nothing compared to the cost of a botched immunisation effort, and a longer outbreak.
“Pandemics remind us that helping others is not just the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do”, he added.