The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $70 million commitment in support of efforts to develop and distribute safe, affordable COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.
Announced by Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates at the Paris Peace Forum, the commitment includes an additional $50 million to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance's Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines (COVAX AMC), a financing mechanism through which GAVI promotes equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in ninety-two low- and middle-income countries. The pledge from the foundation will unlock an additional £12.5 million ($16.2 million) from the government of the United Kingdom, which in September committed to matching other contributions in support of the AMC.
With pharmaceutical companies concluding clinical trials for the first COVID-19 vaccine candidates and beginning to file for approval, the foundation also awarded a $20 million grant to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to jumpstart the development of an additional slate of promising vaccine candidates. CEPI and GAVI are co-leading the vaccine-focused efforts of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration aimed at speeding up the development and production of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. According to the foundation, the next group of vaccine candidates promises to be easier to manufacture at scale and at lower cost and, because of their temperature stability, may be better suited to the needs of low- and middle-income settings, driving equitable access to more affordable vaccines.
The latest commitments from the foundation boost its funding for GAVI's COVAX AMC to $156 million and for the ACT Accelerator to $226 million.
The foundation also announced that it is joining a $32 million partnership aimed at expanding access to fast, accurate, and equitable COVID-19 testing in Africa. With support from the foundation and the African Union, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), and others, diagnostics firm LumiraDx will provide five thousand portable diagnostic instruments and related COVID-19 antigen tests for distribution by the Africa Medical Supplies Platform in fifty-five African Union member states.
"COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere. That is why we have to ensure that everyone gets equal access to tests, drugs, and vaccines when they are available — no matter where you live in the world," said Melinda Gates. "Our pledge today, alongside the generous commitments made by France, the European Commission, and Spain, means we are getting closer to having the resources needed to help the world fight this virus. But we still have a long way to go."
(Photo credit: GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance)