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Bill Gates, Covid-19, and the fight to vaccinate the planet

To date, only $ 3.6 billion has been raised to fund research, vaccine manufacture and aid for poor countries. AstraZeneca, one of three companies that have pledged to deliver vaccines as part of the initiative, reported promising results this week. On the other hand, securing the billions of necessary doses quickly and affordably could prove difficult, as the United States and other wealthy countries have signed separate agreements to reserve vaccines for their own citizens.

In recent months, Mr. Gates, who emphasizes that he is only one of the protagonists of this battle, organized virtual round tables with executives of pharmaceutical companies. He approached heads of state to extract pledges of funding: in a week, with his wife Melinda Gates, co-president of the Foundation, he met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel , the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed ben Zayed.

In Washington, he had regular discussions with Dr Anthony Fauci, renowned immunologist and a longtime collaborator on vaccination campaigns. He spoke with US Senator Mitch McConnell, a polio survivor who supports programs to eradicate polio and other infectious diseases. And to help recruit staff for this vaccination campaign, his foundation has also enlisted millions of dollars in the services of consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

“Some will say ‘Why him?’ Note Dr Ariel Pablos-Méndez, former director of knowledge management for dissemination. “He’s got the aura. He has the means. He feels concerned. There are a lot of people getting involved, but not at the Gates scale.

If this initiative, carried by the fortune and the interest of Mr. Gates, helps protect the poorest from a virus that has already killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, it confirms its strategic choices in terms of philanthropy, such as direct grants to pharmaceutical companies.

If the initiative fails, however, calls for a more radical approach could intensify.

With the pandemic, some activists and public health officials argue that vaccine makers, many of whom have received funding unprecedented, should be forced to share their discoveries, data and know-how to maximize their production. India and South Africa, for example, are campaigning for intellectual property rights to the virus to be suspended.

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