Gates Foundation COVID-19 Response FAQ
The foundation has committed about $1.75 billion to support the global response to COVID-19. This includes:
- More than $680 million in newly allocated funding, to help slow transmission; support responses in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia; fund the development and procurement of new tests, treatments, and vaccines; alleviate the social and economic effects of the pandemic; and a new focus for 2021 to ensure equitable, timely, and scaled delivery of proven interventions.
- Up to $750 million in guarantees, forgivable loans, and other financing from our Strategic Investment Fund, which uses financial tools other than grants to help address market challenges and stimulate private sector innovation. The financing enables the rapid procurement of essential medical supplies, like tests, and helps companies finance the production of COVID-19 products for low- and middle-income countries. Any financial returns generated by the Strategic Investment Fund are re-invested in Gates Foundation philanthropic programs.
More than $315 million from other programs where grantees were uniquely positioned to leverage existing work and expertise to support the COVID-19 response directly, while continuing to support existing priorities.
Check out these graphics to see more details about our COVID-19 commitments.
Many organizations have received funding for COVID-19 response since the announcement of our first funding commitment in January 2020. For example, in early February 2020, we provided a grant to help the Africa 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 around the world.
To support the development of new COVID-19 vaccines, we provided grants to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to continue researching additional vaccine candidates that could be less expensive or easier to deliver—like those that do not need to be kept extremely cold. We have also committed funds to Gavi’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advance Market Commitment (COVAX AMC) to help make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are accessible and affordable in low- and middle-income countries.
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 to support 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.
You can find more information about our grants in our grants database.
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.
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.
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.
To date, we have committed about $47.5 million to strengthen country-specific and regional responses in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and help partners prepare health systems for rising cases. A portion of the additional $250 million we committed in December 2020 will also support partners in Africa, including resources to help deliver life-saving tests, treatments, and vaccines.
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 partnerships 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. We also know that COVID-19 is much more than a health crisis, and many countries are feeling immense economic pressure. So, we are also helping partners develop solutions to support livelihoods for people experiencing extreme poverty.
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 health, Africa Region, who is leading our COVID-19 Africa response.
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.
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.
Getting safe vaccines out to the whole world will bring the pandemic to an end.
Thanks to the ingenuity and urgency of researchers around the world, there are more potential vaccines than we could have expected at the start of the pandemic. With new safety and efficacy results being reported and regulatory approvals happening in several countries, some people in higher-income countries like the U.K. have already been immunized.
But it’s a long road from the first approvals to having vaccines out to every country to protect those most at risk. We know that until every country has access to safe and effective vaccines, the pandemic will be a threat everywhere. It is crucial that low- and middle-income countries have access to early doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines, especially to cover health care workers and other high-risk populations.
The historic efforts to develop safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines must now be matched with equally historic efforts to make sure everyone can benefit from them.
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.
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.
No. This is false. You can read more about the background of this rumor here
Vaccines are proven to be one of our most powerful tools in combating infectious diseases. Over the past few decades, vaccines have been responsible for the eradication of smallpox and dramatic reductions in the number of people falling ill from diseases like polio, meningitis, and measles—for some diseases by more than 90%.
In a pandemic, it’s essential to study interventions in places where they will most likely be used. That’s why a distributed network of trial sites is being funded by the Gates Foundation and others, to ensure that the results are applicable in various populations and settings. This includes trials in South Africa for the AstaZeneca/University of Oxford and Novavax vaccine candidates, of which the foundation is one of several funders.
New COVID-19 vaccines are being developed quickly because many of the research and development steps are happening at the same time, enabling scientists and regulators to carefully take critical safety steps. For example, rather than waiting for clinical trials to complete before scaling up manufacturing, many companies already started the production process. Additionally, new mRNA platforms like those used for Pfizer and Moderna's candidates shorten the time it takes to go from discovery of a new disease to having vaccine candidates ready for trials. By starting the trials sooner, these companies can see results more quickly. Researchers are also sharing their findings and collaborating like never before, which also accelerates vaccine development. And, since so many governments and donors have urgently funded vaccine development efforts, companies also do not have to spend as much time waiting to obtain financial resources needed for vaccine development, which is very costly.
We have always said that the COVID-19 response should be guided by science and that new COVID-19 vaccines must go through rigorous clinical trials to determine safety and efficacy. While the current pandemic has created urgency to work as quickly as possible to develop safe and effective vaccines, speed and science should never be at odds, especially where ensuring safety is concerned. Regulatory bodies, like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are carefully reviewing new COVID-19 vaccines based on rigorous criteria and information about safety and effectiveness from large-scale clinical studies.
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.
In March, we announced that up to $50 million of our commitment will go towards supporting the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and Mastercard are the founding funders of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. To date, about $300 million has been committed, and major contributors now include the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the U.K. 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 has reserved manufacturing capacity for Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment for the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.
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.
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.
In addition to our contributions to the COVID-19 response, the foundation has provided about $235 million 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.
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.
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:
- Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to help develop new vaccines for emerging infectious diseases
- WHO R&D Blueprint to ensure safe diagnostics, vaccines, and medicines can be developed and delivered quickly when a new disease emerges
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
No. No one could have predicted that a novel coronavirus would have emerged in late 2019. Scientists knew that it was highly likely that if a new virus emerged, especially one that spreads via the lungs, that the world would not be prepared. This was increasingly clear after the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-15. Since then, the foundation has been engaged with an array of researchers, international agencies, and governments in efforts to strengthen global preparedness against potential pandemics and help prepare leaders to respond to serious public health crises.