In an interview about his latest book and several other pressing issues, Bill Gates sounded especially concerned when I asked him about the slow pace of COVID-19 vaccination in Latin America and other parts of the developing world.
The Microsoft founder and mega-philanthropist, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated more than $1 billion to help combat the coronavirus pandemic especially in developing countries, told me that in the best case scenario the vaccines will control the virus in Latin America six months after the United States. But he cautioned that the delay could be much longer, perhaps of up to 12 months.
If things go well with the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines, “the inequity will be about a six-month” delay. “If things don’t go well with those vaccines, it could be nine to twelve months,” he said.
Gates lamented that, under the Trump administration, the United States failed to support the World Health Organization’s COVAX global vaccination program to help developing countries get 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this year.
While president, Donald Trump withdrew from the WHO, and did not contribute funds for the COVAX program. His measures were strongly criticized by the scientific community, because you can’t defeat a pandemic if the rest of the world gets infected.
In addition, “the previous administration said that every American should have a vaccine before a single vaccine gets out of the country, which, you know, I don’t agree with,” Gates told me.
Fortunately, the Biden administration’s $900 billion COVID relief package includes $4 billion for the COVAX initiative, and “we encourage the Congress to finally show up to help the global effort,” Gates said. He added that “the Biden administration is very engaged in saying no, it’s not just America.”
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