Relentless pursuit of an equitable world

The Optimist


More information about the foundation’s COVID-19 response.

How much money has the Gates Foundation given to the COVID-19 response?


The foundation has committed more than $350 million to support the global response to COVID-19. This includes:

· $250 million to improve detection, isolation, and treatment efforts; protect at-risk populations in Africa and South Asia; accelerate the development of vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics; and minimize the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. The foundation announced $100 million to the global response in February, and then increased this commitment by an additional $150 million in April.

· $5 million to support the COVID-19 response in the Greater Seattle Area. This funding supported local public health efforts in Seattle & King County as well as six regional response funds that aim to meet the needs of those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

· $100 million to Gavi’s new COVID-19 Vaccine Advance Market Commitment, to support its future efforts to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries.

In addition to the more than $350 million committed, the foundation will also leverage a portion of its Strategic Investment Fund, which addresses market failures and helps make it attractive for private enterprise to develop affordable and accessible health products. For example, we are collaborating with Gavi and the Serum Institute of India to accelerate the manufacture and delivery of up to 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. $150 million came from our Strategic Investment Fund.

Which organizations have received funds?


We are still in the process of making COVID-19-related grants. In early February, we provided a grant to help the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention scale up testing capacity across sub-Saharan Africa. We also provided fast and flexible funding to international organizations like the World Health Organization, and their regional offices in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, to prepare to help new COVID-19 patients in different areas of the world.

In our hometown of Seattle, we provided a grant to the local public health department to help them share important information with the public, so everyone could take appropriate measures to help prevent further spread of the disease. We also contributed to six regional COVID-19 response funds, including The Seattle Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund, the Community Fund of Snohomish County, the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation serving Pierce County, the Innovia Foundation serving Spokane County, the Yakima Valley Community Foundation, and Philanthropy Northwest. These funds are going to community-based organizations that help groups at higher risk of contracting the disease (like health care and service industry workers) or families who may have gone from low-income to no-income because of social distancing and closures. Because people experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the foundation also contributed to three of Seattle’s homeless service providers: Mary’s Place, Plymouth Housing, and the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).

Within a few weeks of committing our first $100 million, we also announced that $50 million of that commitment would fund the new COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, which is supporting clinical trials to speed up the development of treatments for COVID-19. You can find more information about our grants in our grants database.

Why is the Gates Foundation providing this funding instead of governments?


Governments play the most critical role in protecting people from COVID-19. Many organizations, including the foundation, are also funding efforts to fight this pandemic because of the great danger it presents to so many people. One of the advantages of foundation grants is the ability to deliver fast and flexible funding to help countries and organizations take rapid action and fill resource gaps.

Philanthropy doesn’t—and shouldn’t—take the place of government. Philanthropy complements government by playing a unique role in driving progress. Philanthropy is best at testing out ideas that might not otherwise get tried. This approach is known as “catalytic philanthropy,” where foundations like ours put wind in the sails of innovations and initiatives with the potential to save and transform lives.

In the face of this collective threat, we believe working together with governments and other organizations is our most effective tool.

Will there be more funding announced in the future?


That will be decided at a later date. This global crisis will require more resources than any one organization or country can provide. We are in constant contact with our partners to identify urgent areas of need and we will continue to explore where our resources and expertise can be of most value in the fight against COVID-19.

How will your funding help women and girls?


We know from experience that disease outbreaks affect women and girls differently than men and boys. Part of the work that is underway includes a rapid and comprehensive assessment of the health, economic, and social impact of this pandemic on women and girls in low- and middle-income countries. This will help ensure a fair and effective response that brings the pandemic to an end, and helps us rebuild in a way that helps everyone thrive.

What are you doing to assist the COVID-19 response in Africa?


With our first commitment of $100 million in February, we committed up to $20 million to assist partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia in strengthening preparation for COVID-19. A portion of the additional $150 million we committed in April will also support partners in Africa, including resources to scale their COVID-19 response to help the most people.

In Africa, our goal is to help partners and governments with the immediate response, and also support longer-term health system strengthening for the future. This includes helping governments and regional agencies improve disease detection, increase capacity to diagnose COVID-19, and set up infrastructure to safely isolate and care for people with confirmed infections. We have also worked with partners to help stabilize the market for medical supplies that COVID-19 patients need, like oxygen, and supported partnership with private companies to determine new ways of distributing food and essential medicines. These measures will help address immediate needs, while also strengthening regional coordination and capacity for the future.

You can read more about our approach to COVID-19 in Africa in an Optimist post by our Cheikh Oumar Seydi, our Africa director, and another post by Solomon Zewdu, deputy director for Global Development in Ethiopia, who is leading our COVID-19 Africa response.

What are you doing to assist the COVID-19 response in South Asia?


The foundation is supporting India’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in close coordination with the Government of India and the state governments in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, to ensure access to quality health services for India’s most vulnerable communities. For example, our grantees are helping the governments in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to rapidly prepare health facilities to handle mild and severe COVID-19 cases. They are also supporting the states’ call centers and providing digital support for collecting epidemiological data to understand how the virus is spreading. Working with UNICEF, WHO, and other partners, we are also leveraging social media and messaging applications, helping to support communication campaigns, and leveraging local influencers to ensure that critical information about the virus is delivered quickly. You can read more about our response in India in this Optimist post by Hari Menon, the director of our India office.

In addition to our work in India, we are collaborating with regional partners across South Asia to help improve coordination and a multi-country response. This includes supporting grantees to improve case identification and treatment measures in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Indonesia.

Is the foundation supporting the COVID-19 response in the U.S.?


In March, the foundation committed up to $5 million to fight COVID-19 in the Seattle-area. These funds are helping public health agencies in the greater Seattle area respond to COVID-19. It is also helping community-based organizations meet the immediate needs of people who are economically or medically at risk, such as service industry and gig workers, health care workers, people with limited English proficiency, people experiencing homelessness, and communities of color.

The foundation also provides technical assistance to SCAN—the greater Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network. SCAN is a collaboration between Public Health—Seattle & King County and the team behind the Seattle Flu Study to understand the spread of COVID-19 in the greater Seattle/King County region. It is funded by Gates Ventures (the private office of Bill Gates).

In our U.S. Program, we’ve re-allocated $4 million in our K-12 and Postsecondary strategies to support emergency aid efforts. This includes supporting states as they expand K-12 online learning, and coordinate meals and other support for students. We’re also funding emergency aid to postsecondary institutions to help lessen the financial shock felt disproportionately by low-income students due to lost housing, food, and wages.

Ultimately, the funding we are providing to safely speed the development of and access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines will benefit everyone—including people in the U.S.

Are you halting your funding for other areas of work and re-directing all your resources towards coronavirus?


No. While the pandemic is affecting all areas of our work and we cannot deliver on our mission without addressing it, we remain fully committed to our core issues.



Why does the Gates Foundation believe that a COVID-19 vaccine is so important?


Getting safe vaccines out to the whole world will bring the pandemic to an end.

How long will it take until there is a vaccine for COVID-19?


We believe the best-case scenario for the availability of safe, effective, and approved vaccines is late 2020, with scale up happening well into 2021 and beyond.

Following the 2014 Ebola epidemic, the foundation worked with donor governments to create the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in anticipation of a major pandemic. CEPI has moved quickly to identify potential vaccine candidates, and now has six groups working on vaccines for COVID-19.

But it’s a long road from the first trials—which were started in March—to having vaccines ready to administer at large scale. Vaccines first need to be tested for safety and effectiveness in rigorous clinical studies before they are approved by regulatory bodies.

If a vaccine is developed with Gates Foundation funding, will the foundation make a profit from the vaccine?


As a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, all of the foundation’s assets are used for a charitable purpose. Any vaccines produced with funding from the Gates Foundation must adhere to Global Access guidelines, which require any vaccine created with foundation funding be made widely available at an affordable price, in sufficient volume, at a level of quality, and in a time frame that benefits people in need.

Does the Gates Foundation believe a COVID-19 vaccine should be mandatory?


That decision is best made by individual governments. Vaccines are a powerful tool to fight disease and save lives. Over the past few decades, vaccines have been responsible for the eradication of smallpox and saving people from getting diseases like polio, meningitis, and measles. In some cases, the rate of disease spread has been reduced by more than 90%.

Safe and effective vaccines will end this crisis sooner. Our aim is to speed up research and development for COVID-19 vaccines and make them accessible and affordable for as many people as possible.

Is the Gates Foundation or Bill Gates planning to insert microchips to track people with the COVID-19 vaccine?


No. This is false. You can read more about the background of this rumor here



How is the Gates Foundation supporting the development of COVID-19 treatments?


The Gates Foundation, along with Wellcome and Mastercard, are the founding funders of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. The Accelerator is intended to play a catalytic role by accelerating and evaluating new and repurposed drugs to respond to COVID-19 in the immediate term, and other viruses in the longer-term. The Accelerator has an end-to-end focus, from drug development through manufacturing and scale-up. By sharing research, coordinating investments, and pooling resources, these efforts can help to accelerate research. This kind of collaboration was a key lesson from the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

How much money has the Gates Foundation given to the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator?


In March, we announced that up to $50 million of our commitment will go towards supporting the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.

Who has contributed to the Therapeutics Accelerator so far?


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard are the founding funders of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. As of late May, more than $250 million has been committed, and major contributors now include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the UK government, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Avast, Alwaleed Philanthropies, and EQT.

Additionally, life science companies pledged their proprietary compounds to help identify potential drug candidates active against COVID-19, and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies announced that it will reserve manufacturing capacity for a future COVID-19 therapy for the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.



Is the Gates Foundation developing home-based testing kits?


No. We're not set up to invent or manufacture or distribute diagnostic tests. But we do provide funding for research that evaluates different testing materials and sample collection methods to help increase access to testing.

Has the Gates Foundation funded initiatives that would expand contact tracing in the U.S.?


No. The Gates Foundation has not provided grant funding to expand contact tracing in the U.S. In our home state of Washington, our staff have provided advisory support to public health officials on their COVID-19 response, including participation in discussions about epidemiological approaches, such as testing, isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine.



How much has the foundation committed to epidemic preparedness and response?


About $585 million. This includes $350M for the COVID-19 response, and $235M in grants over the past five years. This figure does not include other cross-cutting investments in infectious disease prevention and health systems strengthening that have also contributed to pandemic preparedness in general.

Why did the Gates Foundation get involved in pandemic preparedness?


For the last 20 years, a major focus of the foundation has been reducing infectious diseases among vulnerable populations. Many of the funds we have provided over the years have helped strengthen health systems and improve countries’ ability to respond to disease outbreaks.

After the West Africa Ebola outbreak of 2014-15, we felt an increased urgency that the greatest risk to global security would be a new pandemic capable of spreading quickly across the globe. As a result, the foundation dramatically increased its funding in efforts to strengthen global pandemic preparedness, including funding to help governments and international agencies improve coordination and take a leading role as funders and implementers of preparedness efforts.

What work does the foundation do related to pandemic preparedness?


We provide grants to organizations to help them respond to pandemics more quickly and in a more coordinated way.

Some examples of organizations that receive grants from the foundation include:

1. Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to help develop new vaccines for emerging infectious diseases

2. WHO R&D Blueprint to ensure safe diagnostics, vaccines, and medicines can be developed and delivered quickly when a new disease emerges

3. Global Research Collaborative for Infectious Disease Preparedness (Glopid-R) and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) to help coordinate research on emerging infectious diseases such as coronaviruses, influenza viruses, and other pathogens that could cause future pandemics.

4. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GMBP) and the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security to encourage governments and organizations around the world to share resources and knowledge.


We’ve also funded organizations that have a history of preventing and responding to disease outbreaks, like the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, GPEI quickly repurposed its existing structure used to fight polio to identify new cases of COVID-19, educate the public, and better coordinate the response in the countries it serves. Many of our grants have also strengthened health systems, improved lab capacity, and improved how health services are delivered to at-risk populations, which plays an important role in helping countries prepare for and respond to pandemics.

How are you responding to the conspiracy theories about your philanthropic efforts to fight COVID 19?


One of the best things we can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is spread the facts. Right now, when we’re facing a huge health and economic crisis, it’s deeply troubling that people are spreading misinformation when we should be working together to save lives. 

What do you say to criticisms that the Gates Foundation has too much influence over the World Health Organization?


As a specialized agency of the United Nations, WHO is solely accountable to its 194 member states, and it should be solely guided by the priorities its member states set through the World Health Assembly.

That’s why the Gates Foundation only provides WHO with funding for initiatives that have been authorized by the member states and are closely aligned with the foundation’s own global health priorities.