Bill Gates has been in the headlines for several reasons since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The tech mogul was celebrated, mocked and even scathingly criticised for his stand on the production and distribution of a vaccine candidate for the novel disease. A new comment by Gates puts him in a bad light yet again, as the tech entrepreneur suggests not to share patented vaccines with other countries.
In an interview with Sky News, Bill Gates was asked if a change in intellectual property law be helpful in the current Covid crisis? The backing thought was to share the vaccine formula and production techniques with countries other than the US so as to enable localised production.
To the surprise (and shock) of many, Gates said no.
He provided a couple of reasons for his argument. One of these was the limited vaccine factories across the world. Another was the process of transferring the technology itself, which would not be very effective without the “grants” and “expertise” that the US has, as per Gates.
Both vague, uninspiring reasons and not true to the slightest of thought. But even if you start to consider them as legit challenges, it is what Gates said in the midst that ticked off the deafest of ears.
“Moving something that had never been done moving a vaccine from say a J&J factory into a factory in India, that, it’s novel.”
India? Really? Had Gates not mentioned a specific country in his comment, he might have had a chance to get away with the comment. But considering that the country has the highest production capacity of vaccines in the world, the comment lost its credibility almost immediately.
The fact that India is a vaccine manufacturing hub is known to the world. At the start of this year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the country’s vaccine production capacity as “the best asset that the world has today” in the fight against Covid-19. The backbone of this production is, anyway, a technology transfer between SII and AstraZeneca and not an individual effort to come up with a magic solution. So how Gates can point this out as a challenge is anybody’s guess.
In fact, Gates himself noted that the vaccine manufacturers are making such a technology transfer happen. Then why it cannot or rather “should not be done” is a question that Gates seems much confused on.
One might argue the claims based on the country’s ongoing crisis with the disease. That, however, can partly be blamed on the irregular distribution of the vaccine units to other countries and on a tragic under-preparedness of the country to fight a second wave, but not the lack of vaccine production capacity.
Another dull reason he put out for this was the trials required on vaccine candidates. But to think of it, any vaccine candidate is anyway tested in every region of use. So, one can only guess what Gates was trying to imply there.
This is not the first time Gates has come under the radar for his involvement with the vaccine availability around the world. As the pandemic evolved and a new perspective of the world post-Covid-19 came in, many started pointing fingers at how Gates profited from these vaccines.
A growing number of people from across the globe now hold the narrative that Gates knowingly pushed the vaccine towards a profiting business model rather than going for vaccine equity which is the need of the hour.
A report by Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network Ltd (AFTINET) points out the involvement of Gates through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation towards the partnership of the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca to deliver its Covid-19 vaccine candidate to the countries across the world. The report mentions that this was a major reason for the exclusive license controlled distribution of the vaccine instead of an open distribution model for any manufacturer.
Since much of this is speculation, and outright blame cannot be put on Gates for this. But some hints point to its legitimacy. Gates profited during the pandemic through sources directly linked to the Covid-19 related supplies. Such comments on keeping the vaccines exclusive do not help his case either.