Ahead of the start of the US anti-coronavirus vaccine rollout, American business magnate, software developer, and philanthropist Bill Gates has volunteered to take a COVID-19 shot publicly.
"I will visibly take the vaccine, because I think that it's a benefit to all people to not be transmitting," said Microsoft's billionaire co-founder, talking with CNN's Jake Tapper on State of the Union.
CNN treats Bill Gates like he is the smartest man to have ever lived. pic.twitter.com/LWCXCBwGNV— Pastor Wendell 🇺🇸🇺🇸 (@wendelltalks) December 13, 2020
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in the country, with the first batch of the vaccine expected to be delivered across the US during the week.
Bill Gates also denounced President Donald Trump's "America first" approach to coronavirus vaccine development as "selfish", underscoring that US vaccines had only benefited from collaboration with foreign scientists.
Underscoring that German biotechnology company BioNTech was behind the creation of the COVID-19 vaccine authorised by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week, Gates said:
"We want the world economy to be going. We want to minimise the deaths. And, you know, the basic technology is a German company. And so blocking international sharing and cooperation has been disruptive and a mistake during this entire pandemic."
US federal vaccine initiative Operation Warp Speed (OWS) 's role in advancing the development of an American jab was downplayed by Bill Gates, who emphasised that the first two inoculations made from messenger RNA, known as mRNA, have had "backing for quite some time."
As for Moderna’s vaccine, which according to Moncef Slaoui, head OWS scientist, will likely be approved by next week, it received financial support earlier, when the US inoculation initiative was "just called BARDA", or Biomedical Advanced Research and Development.
Operation Warp Speed (OWS) is a public–private partnership initiated by the US government to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
As Gates lauded international scientific efforts to aid the development of the first US vaccines, he was emphatic that distribution should be "based on medical need, not wealth at all".
"We need to ramp up the capacity of all the vaccines. There will be some additional ones approved in the months ahead that are easier to scale up the manufacturing. But the US has benefited from other countries' work here, and we shouldn't be entirely selfish in how we go forward," said Gates.
Questioned on Donald Trump's executive order, signed in line with the ‘America First’ policy during a summit on Operation Warp Speed and prioritising distribution of the vaccines to Americans before other countries, Bill Gates said that “all of humanity” should be helped amid the health crisis.
“The extreme idea that everybody should die until we have the very last American vaccinated, that's hardly the appropriate response," noted Gates.
The Trump administration said on 8 December that it was confident the US will have enough doses of vaccine to inoculate everyone who wants it by mid-2021.
While stopping short of clarifying how it will be enforced, the executive order sets up a framework for US government agencies to help other countries procure the vaccines after domestic demand has been met.
Bill Gates refused to single out any of the vaccines. "I'm super happy with all of these vaccines," said the tycoon, in reference to the vaccines produced by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.
Last month the outspoken American philanthropist appeared on Trevor Noah’s ‘The Daily Show’ where he addressed some of the conspiracy theories regarding his motivation for the development and distribution of anti-coronavirus vaccines.
“There’s always been a small group of anti-vaccination people, and we see this with the measles vaccine. They’ve now got a platform, and they’ve joined forces with some political-conspiracy dudes,” said Gates in response to elaborate speculations that the businessman’s family could be using vaccines as a pretext to control the population with microchips.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced recently that it was pledging an additional $70 million to battle the coronavirus pandemic and “ensure that everyone gets equal access to tests, drugs, and vaccines when they are available”.
We must ensure these innovations reach everyone, not just those who can afford to pay. Our newest commitment to the COVID-19 response is our largest to date, but only a fraction of what is needed. https://t.co/oOL476UkhA— Gates Foundation (@gatesfoundation) December 10, 2020
The money is said to be distributed between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the COVAX Advance Market Commitment group.
The foundation has committed a total of $1.75 billion to the COVID-19 response. This figure includes commitments announced this year, funds channeled from other foundation programs, and financing to make products affordable and accessible in low- and middle- income countries. pic.twitter.com/uhOTgyD6Ry— Gates Foundation (@gatesfoundation) December 10, 2020
In previous months, the Foundation already earmarked $150 million to accelerate the manufacture and delivery of up to 100 million doses of vaccine to low- and middle-income countries in 2021.