The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced an expansion of its funding for the global response to COVID-19.
The increase includes an additional $150 million of grant funding to finance the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, as well as new efforts to provide partners in Africa and South Asia with resources to scale their COVID-19 detection, treatment, and isolation measures.
Read more industry news on COVID-19
“It is increasingly clear that the world’s response to this pandemic will not be effective unless it is also equitable,” said Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates. “We have a responsibility to meet this global crisis with global solidarity. In addition to contributing to the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, these funds will support efforts against COVID-19 in low-and-middle-income countries, where local leaders and healthcare workers are doing heroic work to protect vulnerable communities and slow the spread of the disease.”
The foundation will also leverage a portion of its $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund, which uses a suite of financial tools to address market failures and incentivize private enterprise to develop affordable and accessible health products.
These funds, which can include equity investments, loans, and volume guarantees, will be used to help health systems in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) facilitate the rapid procurement of personal protective equipment for health care workers, COVID-19 diagnostics, oxygen therapeutics, and other essential medical supplies. Any financial returns generated by the Strategic Investment Fund are re-invested in Gates Foundation philanthropic programmes.
This funding will build on the $100 million the foundation has committed to date, to support the global response, as well as $5 million in resources to support public health agencies and frontline response organisations in the greater Seattle region.
“COVID-19 doesn’t obey border laws. Even if most countries succeed in slowing the disease over the next few months, the virus could return if the pandemic remains severe enough elsewhere,” said foundation co-chair Bill Gates. “The world community must understand that so long as COVID-19 is somewhere, we need to act as if it were everywhere. Beating this pandemic will require an unprecedented level of international funding and cooperation.”
While there is not yet global consensus on the total resources required to turn back COVID-19, the figure is more than any one contributor will bear. A coordinated, international effort bringing together all sectors will be required to mobilize the billions in funding needed in the months ahead.
Four priority areas for investment
Accelerating Virus Detection
In some countries, this will include leveraging emergency operations centres normally deployed to support polio eradication and malaria elimination efforts toward COVID-19 detection.
Protecting the Most Vulnerable
Foundation funding will help partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia pilot different approaches to physical distancing and infection suppression in settings where stay-at-home policies and other physical distancing strategies may not be practical.
The foundation is also considering gender equality issues in its response, and it will support research into the differential health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic on women and girls in LMICs.
Minimising Social and Economic Impact
The foundation will provide non-medical funding to help LMICs strengthen social and economic support for people who are living in extreme poverty or who are at risk of falling back into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The foundation will work with partners to help expand access to social payment systems to communities that are most at risk of serious social and economic disruption.
Develop Products for a Sustained Response
The foundation will continue to invest in efforts to accelerate the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines for the COVID-19 response while working with governments, the private sector, and multilateral institutions to ensure scaled manufacturing and the equitable procurement and distribution of these products as they become available.
This work will include efforts to develop affordable and accessible point-of-care diagnostics, as well as support for the development of treatments and vaccines whose production can be quickly scaled once clinical trials have demonstrated their safety and efficacy.
The foundation will work with national governments and international organisations such as the WHO; UNICEF; Gavi; and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to ensure that LMICs have equitable access to essential commodities and to ensure that supply and distribution chains are well prepared to facilitate their rapid and widespread delivery to Gavi- and Global Fund-eligible countries.
“This pandemic has unleashed an extraordinary philanthropic response. While significant, it is still only one small part of what must be a coordinated effort to beat this global crisis,” said foundation CEO Mark Suzman. “Philanthropy cannot-and should not-supplant the public and private sectors. What philanthropy is good at is testing out ideas that might not otherwise get tried, so governments and businesses can then take on the successful ones. With all sectors working together, we can avoid the worst-case scenarios of human, economic, and social costs.”
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