SEATTLE, Washington — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a leading voice in the fight against global poverty through innovation and promoting equal access to healthcare and education. At the Coronavirus Global Response Summit on May 4, The Gates Foundation committed an additional $125 million to the global COVID-19 response. This pushed its total contribution to $300 million towards battling the pandemic. The foundation’s goal is to develop testing, therapies and vaccines as well as to promote equal access to these resources.
Gates Foundation Press Release
“In order to beat COVID-19, the world needs more than great science,” explains Melinda Gates, co-chair of the foundation. “It needs great humanity, the commitment to help people beat this virus no matter where they live.” At the heart of the Gates Foundation’s mission is the idea that every life has equal value. The Gates Foundation is taking action to minimize disparities resulting from the pandemic. It is promoting access to resources such as testing and treatment to the poorest communities around the world.
Melinda Gates stated that combining science with humanity is how the world can beat COVID-19. This is demonstrated through how the foundation has chosen to allocate the additional $125 million. It is donating $50 million towards COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, an effort the Gates Foundation launched to develop drugs to combat COVID-19. Another $25 million will go towards diagnostic research and delivery.
Additionally, The Gates Foundation’s response has taken into account long-term solutions and interventions by making plans for the equitable distribution of COVID-19-related resources in the future. Another $50 million are allocated towards Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Researchers around the world are working on at least 133 different vaccines for COVID-19. Once a vaccine is available, GAVI will deliver and distribute it to those who need it most. The goal is to reach 300 million children in underserved areas by 2025.
The Response in Developing Countries
Many communities in Africa and South Asia are already at a significant disadvantage when it comes to medical resources. A pandemic will disproportionately impact these communities and further exacerbate health disparities and rates of poverty. It can also reverse the progress that has been made towards achieving the SDG by 2030. Lack of medical resources and health workers, as well as limited capacity in health systems, contribute to why poor communities suffer most from pandemics.
Overcharged hospitals impact the delivery of other essential health services such as childbirth and standard vaccination procedures. Immunizations for other diseases are crucial during this time to minimize the strain on hospitals and healthcare systems. The pandemic indirectly increases mortality rates as the lack of basic services results in more deaths than the virus. Therefore, the Gates Foundation is collaborating with partners in Africa to accomplish four primary goals.
The short term and more urgent goals are to protect high-risk individuals and to improve testing and containment. The long term goals are to conduct treatment and vaccine research and reduce socio-economic repercussions. Initially, only two of the sub-Saharan African countries were able to test for the virus, but with the support of the foundation, 40 out of 54 African countries are now trained for testing. The long term goals address how the pandemic will intensify pre-existing inequalities and poverty.
The foundation is also trying to come up with alternatives to social distancing in developing countries where it is not realistic due to the nature of people’s jobs, financial needs and living situations. Additionally, the development of self-administered testing could improve access to testing and help minimize the strain placed on health systems by lowering the risk of exposure for health workers.
Investing in COVID-19 for the Future
Drawing from history, slow responses to the HIV/AIDS resulted from stigma and discrimination and a lack of global cooperation. It is crucial to respond to global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic with this kind of coordination from agencies and organizations all over the world. The Coronavirus Global Response Summit on May 4, where numerous countries and organizations together and mobilized against COVID-19, raised an $8 billion down payment.
The Gates Foundation will be investing $1.6 billion over a five-year period to GAVI with the goal of increasing the accessibility of vaccines for all income levels. Since 1999, GAVI has provided vaccines to more than 760 million children around the world.
The Gates Foundation COVID-19 response outlines some guidelines that promote global cooperation so that the world can fight the pandemic most effectively. It is crucial to understand that new COVID-19 medical discoveries and research findings are “global goods” and should be shared between nations. This includes tests, vaccines and treatments. It is important to recognize that these goods must be accessible to the poorest nations and the poorest communities in the wealthiest nations. Additionally, the cooperation between government institutions and all global health agencies is important to maximize efficiency.
“If [COVID-19] exists somewhere, it’s a threat anywhere,” writes Mark Suzman from the Optimist. While this is a matter of equity and humanity, it is also in every nation’s best interest to contribute to the global response of COVID-19 because anywhere the virus exists can pose an international threat. The Gates Foundation continues to be a global leader in battling poverty and finding innovative solutions to global health problems. Responding to immediate needs in underserved populations as well as planning for the future consequences of the pandemic marks the Gates Foundation’s response to COVID-19.
– Maia Cullen
Photo: Wikimedia Commons