COVID-19: Gates Foundation Pledges $250m To Accelerate Vaccine Distribution

By SMN Reporter

SEATTLE|SHIFTMEDIA|  The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced it will commit an additional $250 million to support the research, development, and equitable delivery of lifesaving tools in the global effort against COVID-19. Marking the end of a year focused on the scientific breakthroughs needed to end the pandemic, the foundation calls for global commitments to making these innovations available in 2021 to everyone who needs them.

“Everyone, everywhere deserves to benefit from the science developed in 2020,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “We are confident that the world will get better in 2021, but whether it gets better for everyone depends on the actions of the world’s leaders and their commitment to deliver tests, treatments, and vaccines to the people who need them, no matter where they live or how much money they have.”


Gates Foundation pledges additional $250 million to accelerate development and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines to end the pandemic

Today’s commitment, the foundation’s largest single contribution to the COVID-19 response to date, builds on the partnerships and expertise it has established over the last 20 years. This funding will support continued innovation to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines that are easier to scale and deliver, to ensure there are many options that are less expensive and can be used in different settings. Today’s commitment will also support the delivery of new COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Getting these innovations to where they are needed will require the same level of planning, urgency, and collaboration it took to develop them. It will require manufacturing tests, doses of treatments, and vaccines quickly and safely; securing sufficient funding to buy and distribute them; organizing logistical infrastructure and supply chains; preparing clinics and health workers to administer them; and sharing accurate information with communities so people understand and trust what they are receiving. Part of today’s funding will enable countries to use cutting-edge technology and delivery systems to plan and implement the rollout of vaccines. It will also support efforts to engage communities in the process to increase trust and improve communication about new COVID-19 interventions.

“Thanks to the ingenuity of the global scientific community, we are achieving the exciting medical breakthroughs needed to end the pandemic,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “We have new drugs and more potential vaccines than we could have expected at the start of the year. But these innovations will only save lives if they get out into the world.”

As the world prepares to embark on a global logistical challenge previously unmatched in scale and complexity, it can draw on the expertise of global organizations like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund, which have collaborated with governments to deliver vaccines, tests, and treatments against infectious diseases to people in lower-income countries for 20 years. “Fortunately, reaching people with lifesaving tools is something the world knows how to do,” said Melinda Gates.

“The next phase of fighting this pandemic will be much costlier than the initial development of safe and effective vaccines. Our commitment today is only a fraction of what is needed and will be focused on the areas where philanthropy can best add value,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman. “Every institution with a role to play has to be generous now. Multilateral organizations, national governments, companies, and philanthropies—we all must invest in making sure the tests, drugs, and vaccines reach as many people as possible.”

Total COVID-19 commitments to date

Today’s announcement brings the foundation’s total commitments to the global COVID-19 response to $1.75 billion. This draws from three sources, including new funding commitments above the foundation’s planned annual program budget; at-risk financing from the foundation’s Strategic Investment Fund; and a portion of funds channeled from foundation programs where grantees identified urgent needs or had unique expertise to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

The total commitments include:

Newly allocated funding. The total funding commitment includes more than $680 million in new funds that were approved in light of the growing public health emergency, above the foundation’s planned 2020 giving. Examples include:

  • Today’s announced $250 million to continue the development of new COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and drugs and to ensure equitable, timely, and scaled delivery of these products
  • $50.2 million to help slow transmission by supporting global efforts to design and implement testing, tracing, and other urgent public health actions
  • $47.5 million to strengthen country-specific and regional responses in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and help partners prepare health systems for rising cases
  • $311.7 million to fund the development, production, and procurement of new diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines for COVID-19, including:
    • $156 million to Gavi’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC), which aims to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are accessible and affordable in low- and middle-income countries once they are available
    • $20 million to advance additional candidate vaccines through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
    • $50 million for the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator to evaluate existing drugs that could be repurposed for use during the pandemic and to scale new treatments for low- and middle-income countries
  • $24.9 million to alleviate the broader effects of the pandemic, such as economic recovery, education, poverty, and gender equality, including:
    • $5 million to support social service organizations in the greater Seattle area
    • $15 million to provide COVID-19 diagnostic testing infrastructure for up to 10 historically Black colleges and universities
  • At-risk financing. The foundation has made available up to $750 million in volume guarantees, forgivable loans, and other at-risk financing from its Strategic Investment Fund to enable the rapid procurement of essential medical supplies and help companies finance the production of COVID-19 products for low- and middle-income countries, including:
  • Up to $300 million in forgivable loans to support the manufacturing of up to 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries
  • Up to $200 million in guarantees to support at-risk manufacturing of monoclonal antibody treatments for low- and middle-income countries
  • Up to $250 million in guarantees to help make affordable diagnostics available in low- and middle-income countries

The Strategic Investment Fund uses financial tools other than grants to stimulate private-sector innovation and address market challenges to scaling new health innovations in low- and middle-income countries. Any financial returns generated by the Strategic Investment Fund are re-invested in Gates Foundation philanthropic programs.

Channeled funding. Given the threat that COVID-19 presents to global health and development, several foundation grantees were uniquely positioned to leverage existing work and expertise to support the COVID-19 response. The foundation channeled more than $315 million from programs to support direct COVID-19 work while continuing to support existing priorities. Although this is a significant amount, it is only a fraction of the approximately $5 billion that the foundation spends annually across its programs. Some examples include:

  • The team that supports the scale-up of innovations funded an initiative to roll out the LumiraDx COVID-19 diagnostic platform and associated antigen rapid diagnostic tests in Africa, along with other donors.
  • Several teams provided supplemental funds to existing partners to support R&D for new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
  • The team that supports the global delivery of health products provided support to several existing grantees for procurement and coordinating markets for personal protective equipment, respiratory care, and other COVID-19 health supplies.
  • We supported the Africa Medical Supplies Platform to help it purchase about 1 million courses of dexamethasone treatment for use in Africa.
  • The family planning team leveraged existing surveys to understand people’s needs and behaviors during COVID-19. While surveyors asked women and young people about contraceptive needs, they also asked about COVID-19 to inform policy responses.
  • The team that supports K-12 and higher education shifted funds to support emergency aid efforts at schools. This funding supported schools as they adapted to closures and provided support to families of low-income students who may have lost housing, food, or wages.

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