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Bill Gates led effort to get $3.36 billion into the coronavirus deal to help vaccinate world's poor

·Washington Correspondent
·3 min read

During an appearance at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in October, Bill Gates had a prediction.

He said the coronavirus stimulus negotiations would be the “the best opportunity” to get funding approved to help the poorest people in the world get vaccinated.

“The people in the Congress who support these things have decided that [the stimulus bill] is the most likely way for something to get done,” Gates said. That insight from the Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder has apparently come true.

As part of the announcement Sunday evening of a $900 billion coronavirus relief deal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer touted “an additional $3.36 billion for a total of $4 billion for GAVI, the international vaccine alliance.”

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates walks through U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. March 21, 2017.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates during a visits to Washington in 2017. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

The Democratic leaders said the money recognizes that “we are not truly safe until the whole world is safe from the coronavirus.”

Gavi, a public-private health partnership, and a similar organization called the Global Fund have “spent two decades becoming experts in the task of financing vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics,” Gates recently wrote.

During a separate recent interview with Yahoo Finance, Melinda Gates recently discussed the effort to get more funding for Gavi, saying it has a whole distribution system in place to get the vaccine out. “It's totally possible,” she said, “you just have to do the planning now.”

The alliance was founded in 2000 with a mission of making all vaccines more widely available. Gavi says it has vaccinated 822 million children over its two decades in operation and will be central in getting the coronavirus vaccine to the poorest corners of the globe in the coming year.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 20: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speak after a press conference on Capitol Hill on December 20, 2020 in Washington, DC. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate finally came to an agreement on the coronavirus relief bill and a vote is expected on Monday. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) after a press conference Sunday evening in Washington, DC to discuss an agreement on the coronavirus relief bill. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The group says it already has deals in place for nearly two billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine with a rollout beginning early next year. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a “core partner” in the group, but the lion’s share of its funding comes directly from nations around the world.

Gavi gathered in June and raised $8.8 billion from world leaders to help vaccinate the world’s poor. President Trump sent a video message of support during the event but didn’t specify an additional contribution from the U.S.

The group recently announced an additional $2 billion for global COVID vaccine distribution from places like France, Spain, The Republic of Korea and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates and his allies have laid the groundwork for this funding for months, even as the Trump administration shied away from a leadership position in other areas of the global pandemic response.

The Republican stimulus proposal from July — known as the HEALS act — included $3 billion for The Gavi Alliance.

In February, the Trump administration had promised to commit $1.16 billion to Gavi over fiscal years 2020-2023. The new funds are a sizable increase but in line with the historical role that the United States has played in the Gavi alliance. Over the years, the U.S. has contributed 13.7% of the group’s operating budget — $1.4 billion between 2016 and 2020.

In October, before the additional money had materialized, Gates said an additional U.S. contribution would be "in alignment with the U.S.'s past history of being very generous and playing the leadership role in global health."

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

Read more:

Democratic and Republican leaders reach $900 billion coronavirus relief deal that includes stimulus checks

Coronavirus stimulus is 'the best opportunity' to help get the world vaccinated: Bill Gates

Bill Gates on COVID-19: 'Fall 2021 won't be completely back to normal'

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