People’s Vaccine Versus Bill Gate’s Monopolistic Approach

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“We see equal value in all lives”, however, Bill Gate’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic proves his mission statement otherwise.

Sumera B Reshi

The current pandemic (COVID-19) can be overcome only when it is overcome everywhere. Adopting America first approach is quite illogical. High-income countries have already vaccinated their population, however, many middle income and low-income countries are yet waiting for Covid vaccines. In the current health crisis, the world needs a patent-free ‘People’s Vaccine’—not more of Gates’ intellectual property stubbornness.

President Donald Trump’s announcement to withdraw from WHO in July 2020 impacted the future of global public health policy but paved the way for one of the world’s richest persons – Bill Gates. In absence of the US funding which contributed $893 million, which is 15 per cent of the entire budget, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation took the centre –stage and replaced the US in WHO financial & decision making subtly.

“The withdrawal of the US’s financial support for WHO is going to hurt a lot of the programs that are implemented in low-income countries”, said Davidson Hammer, a professor of global health & medicine at BU’s School of Public Health & School of Medicine.

This situation is favourable for Gates Foundation as it is the third-largest group to finance WHO and could influence its decision making. Gates Foundation is plugging money into making the coronavirus vaccine. In an interview to weforum.com (published on 6th April 2020), he said, “Because our foundation has such deep expertise in infectious diseases, we’ve thought about the epidemic, we did fund some things to be more prepared, like a vaccine effort,” “Our early money can accelerate things.”

The Gates Foundation has been very innovative in creating health policy, transformed it into a vehicle for corporate dominance. It has facilitated the dumping of toxic products onto the people of the Global South and even used the world’s poor as a laboratory for drug experiments as per thegrayzone.com report. The Foundation exerts an immense influence over public health policy. It advocates for safety regulation and terms the government’s functions as weak. Experts believe that the Gates Foundation operates against the independence of nation-states and is an instrument for ‘Western capital’.

In an interview with the Grayzone, Dr Vandana Shiva, a scholar and founder of the India-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology said, “Because of the Gates Foundation, I have watched government after government fall in its sovereignty.”

Investigative reports suggest that the Gates Foundation functions as a trojan horse for Western corporations, with a sole aim to generate greater profits. He is unmoved so far patent waivers are concerned and a de facto emperor to decide who gets the vaccine and who doesn’t. Unquestionably, he controls the world health sector with his entrepreneurial acumen rather than charity.

On 5th May 2021, under immense pressure, the Biden administration came out in support of waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). This announcement drew fiery condemnation from drug companies.

Americans have been vaccinated at the earliest but most countries in the world will likely have to wait years for many of their vaccine doses, in a situation being described as “vaccine apartheid.” Almost half of all vaccine shots have been administered in just 16 rich countries, and India is enduring a horrific coronavirus crisis.

The current crisis could have been avoided. Health experts believe that last year, countries in the Global South forced the World Health Organization to unveil a technology sharing pool, C-TAP, that would have removed intellectual property barriers for accessing Covid-19 treatments and vaccines.

Bill Gates, global health czar doesn’t like tech sharing pool idea.  Maintaining his unwavering commitment to intellectual property rights, Gates endorsed a plan that permits companies to hold exclusive rights to lifesaving medicines, no matter how much they benefited from public funding. Given the enormous influence Gates has in global public health, his vision ultimately won out in the Covax program, which protects monopoly patent rights and relies on the charitable whims of rich countries and pharmaceutical giants to provide vaccines to most of the world.

The third & fourth world is in dire need of the Covid-19 vaccine. About 430m doses have been produced so far this year, enough for about 215 million people. And of the doses already given, about half have gone to the richest 16 per cent of the world’s population. Covax, the World Health Organization initiative to transfer vaccines to nations in need, has delivered just 38m doses. As per the calculations put forth by the Center for Global Development and the Economist, nations in the global south may not be able to vaccinate their populace until 2023.

Stephen Buranyi, a science and environment writer, wrote in the Guardian (24th April 2021) that governments and organizations across the globe backed the idea of waiving patents. Further, India & South Africa have asked WTO to suspend patent protections to allow other companies to produce vaccines and drugs but barriers are high-income countries.

According to Stephen Buranyi, the world is in urgent need of patent waivers and technology sharing to which Gates replied that Buryanyi acts like an optimist, however, he has a dismal vision of the world. Gates wasn’t and isn’t in favour of technology sharing or patent waivers.  “We can’t make more vaccines, we can’t compromise profits, we can’t trust poor countries with our technology, and they’ll get their scraps after we eat”, Gates repeated throughout an interview with Sky News.

During the whole pandemic, the health czar and a powerful entrepreneur, Bill Gates was the prime target of criticism from social justice campaigners. He is the only powerful voice who is against waiving patents and sharing know-how with the global south.

In response to an interview with Sky News related to vaccine recipe, Gates nodded in vehement ‘no’ and when asked why not, he said, “Well there are only so many vaccine factories in the world & people are very serious about the safety of the vaccine.”

He is the one who hampered access to the vaccine to the global south, revealed Alexander Zaitchik, an American freelance journalist. Zaitchik further adds that in February 2020, hundreds of public health and infectious disease experts gathered at Geneva and pledged to collaborate against the global pandemic even before the WHO declared the spread of the virus as the global pandemic. They all vowed to share information, maintain open communication, in service of global health. There was, however, no written proof of this solidarity. No concrete action was taken because the pledge wasn’t put on paper and because the public health czar wasn’t ready to waste any single dollar bill.

As stated by a novelist, Cory Doctorow, many people helped to create the ‘vaccine apartheid’ but the major contribution of this anarchy was generated by Bill Gates through his highly ideological, philanthropic foundation which has an agenda of pushing his callous doctrine of unregulated monopoly.

Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation with a real-time net worth of $126.7 billion as of May 2021 according to forbes.com. His fortune has doubled in the pandemic. Gates claims that the primary aim of his foundation is to ‘reduce deaths’ from infectious diseases which he asserts through his philanthropic approach, though he is neither a doctor nor a health expert. In 2008, Gates stepped down as Microsoft chief to focus on his charity work. His business model of charity as per the expert’s benefits mostly the world’s wealthiest, not the world’s poor. His pivotal goal is not to help the needy rather help the rich help the needy.

A Northeastern University Law professor & policy analyst for Health GAP, Brook Baker said, “The consequences of longtime Gates strategies is that they go along with corporate oversupply.”

The impact of the Gates Foundation’s financial contribution has made Bill Gates an unofficial and unelected leader in the public health domain.  For this reason, the World Health Assembly that sets the agenda for WHO adopted a ‘Global Vaccine Plan’ 2012. The plan was co-authored by the Gates Foundation.

In 2007, Dr Arata Kochi, then the chief of the WHO Malaria program warned of the foundation’s financial dominance. Dr Kochi believed that the money invested by the Gates Foundation could have ‘far reaching’ and ‘unintended consequences’.

To stay out of scrutiny and criticism, the foundation has financed many news outlets to influence news coverage of the global health policy.  According to the Seattle Times, the Gates Foundation has invested millions of dollars in journalism training & crafting effective media narratives. Those trained by the Gates Foundation-funded programs write columns in various media outlets in favour of Gates Foundation’s philanthropic works.

Being the uncrowned czar of the world health sector, Gates has succeeded in engineering global health policy for poor countries for over two decades.

His main testing grounds are Africa and South Asia, where he is at the centre stage. His mission statement reads “We see equal value in all lives”, nonetheless, his actions in the pandemic proves otherwise. Africa and South Asia are his laboratories where he tests the effectiveness of medicine and generates wealth by creating demand. He isn’t in favor of “People’s Vaccine’ but to maintain his monopoly in public health domain”

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