– The rich countries must finance preparations for the next pandemic. For his own sake.
That’s what Bill Gates says, who founded the IT giant Microsoft and runs the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation together with his ex-wife. The foundation donates money to healthcare in developing countries.
DN meets him in Brussels in connection with the Grand Challenges conference, where world leaders have gathered to learn lessons about global health after the corona pandemic.
Healthcare in poor countries also needs to get a lot more money, so it doesn’t crash when the next pandemic hits, Gates continues.
Even when the spread of covid was at its greatest, 50 times more people died from malaria than from covid in Nigeria and Congo-Kinshasa. In several countries, childhood vaccination programs were suspended and still have not recovered.
– Healthcare in Africa has been seriously damaged. For the first time ever, there are more deaths from malaria and we see lower vaccine coverage than two or three years ago, says Bill Gates.
According to Gates, the risk now is that Europe lowers its priority on healthcare investments and pandemic preparations due to costs of the war in Ukraine.
When covid-19 spread across the world, the EU and the US pumped money into vaccine development and production. In Belgium, for example, Pfizer’s factory was able to go from producing zero to one billion doses in just one year. But it took some time before the whole world got to know the doses. Iruka Okeke, a Nigerian microbiologist also attending the conference, says health workers in Nigeria were vaccinated almost a year after those in Europe.
– One thing we learned from the pandemic is that people are fundamentally selfish, for better or for worse. We take care of our own first, says Okeke.
Therefore, Africa must have its own vaccine production, she believes.
Earlier this year was clubbed a global initiative where factories for mRNA vaccines will be built in Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.
But according to Bill Gates, there is a contradiction between global mass production of good and cheap vaccines and more countries building their own factories.
– The vaccines used in Africa today cost only a quarter of what they did in 2000. This is because they are manufactured in countries with the best regulatory authorities, with perfect electricity supply and clean water, he says.
The covid vaccine is extreme effective in avoiding severe illness and death, but not very effective in preventing infection. Sooner or later everyone gets infected. That’s why you should take the vaccine, reasons Bill Gates.
– The bottom line is that if you have not already been infected, the vaccine means a reduced risk of dying from the disease.
But the pandemic has also brought with it massive disinformation campaigns against the covid vaccine. The scale of the disinformation, and the fact that much of it focused on himself, was unexpected to Gates. According to one of the most widespread conspiracy theories, Bill Gates, through the vaccine, implants microchips in people to be able to monitor them.
– Well, what can I say? I’m not that interested in knowing where you are. Why should I? I am a busy person. Plus, your cell phone already does it for you.
He laughs, but also says that he knows that people can appear who wish him ill when he is in public settings.
Are you afraid for your safety?
– I don’t consider it a factor in how I live my life. I hope my children are safe, that was something I worried about during the pandemic.