ImpactAlpha, Dec. 23 – “This is like a world war, except in this case, we’re all on the same side,” Gates wrote last spring, as the enormity of the COVID challenge became clear. In a follow up post, the billionaire philanthropist says his “optimistic view that the world would come together to fight COVID-19 has largely turned out to be right (with some notable exceptions),” citing accelerated vaccine development and plans for equitable vaccine distribution.
Gates says 2020’s public, private and philanthropic collaboration paves the way for progress in 2021, “and not only the promise of getting the pandemic under control.” Gates writes, “The world also has a chance to take concrete steps on one of the other great challenges of our time: climate change.”
- Rapid vaccine development. “Humans have never made more progress on any disease in a year than the world did on COVID-19 this year,” writes Gates. Multiple companies were able to pursue and develop vaccines because of financial risk sharing by national governments and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation, backed by government and philanthropic partners, including the Gates Foundation (see, “Gates Foundation’s role in Pfizer’s promising COVID vaccine is part of a strategy, not a conspiracy”).
- Manufacturing at scale. The world needs to double or even triples its vaccine dose manufacturing capacity to produce all the COVID-19 vaccines needed. Serum Institute of India, the biggest vaccine manufacturer in the world, is producing doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to ensure doses are available in low and middle-income countries. A “second-source agreement,” backed by the Gates Foundation, covers some of the financial risk in the case the vaccine is not approved.
- Equitable distribution. CEOs of 16 pharmaceutical companies have committed to equitable allocation of COVID vaccines and other lifesaving tools. COVAX, co-led by GAVI (and also backed by Gates Foundation), raised $2 billion in 2020 to secure nearly two billion doses of promising vaccine candidates for vulnerable groups in more than 190 countries. COVAX aims to raise another $6.8 billion next year.
- Success through failure. The Therapeutics Accelerator backed by Gates Foundation, Wellcome and Mastercard sought to rapidly learn if biotech or pharma companies already had pandemic solutions on hand. “The answer was no,” Gates says. But the process “spared the medical field millions of dollars and a year or two of laboriously going from one company to another, testing one compound after another.”