Bill and Melinda Gates warn there is the potential for “immunity inequality” if only the wealthiest people across the globe have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Already, wealthy nations have spent months prepurchasing doses of vaccine to start immunizing their people the moment those vaccines are approved,” Melinda Gates wrote in the philanthropists’ annual letter published Wednesday. “But as things stand now, low and middle-income countries will only be able to cover about one out of five people who live there over the next year.”
“In a world where global health is local, that should concern all of us,” she added.
The Gates, who have stressed the importance of pandemic preparedness for years and invested $1.75 billion into coronavirus research last year via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, emphasized that wealthy nations need to remember that COVID-19 is a worldwide threat.
“Investments in global health benefit not only low-income countries but everyone,” the letter states. “Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of disease will keep popping up. Those clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices will shut down again. The cycle of inequality will continue. Everything depends on whether the world comes together to ensure that the lifesaving science developed in 2020 saves as many lives as possible in 2021.”
In the final section of the letter, Bill Gates also argued in favor of specific measures to combat future pandemics — namely, investments in global alert systems, infectious disease first responders and treatments such as monoclonal antibodies, which are lab-created proteins that have shown success at treating COVID-19.
“The world needs to spend billions to save trillions (and prevent millions of deaths),” Bill Gates wrote. “The bulk of this investment needs to come from rich countries. Low and middle-income countries and foundations like ours have a role to play, but governments from high-income nations need to lead the charge here because the benefits for them are so huge. If you live in a rich country, it’s in your best interest for your government to go big on pandemic preparedness around the world.”
Read the entire letter here.