Gates Foundation COVID-19 Response FAQ
The foundation has committed more than $1.8 billion to support the global response to COVID-19. This includes:
- More than $750 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 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.
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 point. 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.
A portion of our total COVID-19 commitments is meant to strengthen country-specific and regional responses in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
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 Ideas 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 2020, 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’s U.S. Program is focused on the needs of our education system, both within the context of COVID-19 and as we look toward a recovery. In our U.S. Program, we re-allocated $4 million in our K-12 and Postsecondary strategies to support emergency aid efforts. This supported states as they expanded K-12 online learning, and coordinated meals and other support for students. We also funded emergency aid to postsecondary institutions to help lessen the financial shock felt disproportionately by low-income students due to lost housing, food, and wages. Since the pandemic has been especially devastating for communities of color, the foundation gave $15 million to 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to enable them to serve as COVID-19 diagnostic testing hubs with supplies, equipment, and personnel to support diagnostic testing of students, faculty, and staff, as well as their surrounding communities.
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 help bring the pandemic to an end.
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. Already we’ve seen how COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent illness 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%.
Getting safe and effective vaccines to everyone in the world in a fair way 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 vaccines and other interventions in places where they have the potential to be used and to ensure that they work in various populations and settings. COVID-19 vaccine trials are taking place at many sites around the world, in countries such as the U.K., Brazil, the U.S., South Africa, and many more.
No. Billions of vaccines have been administered globally and there is significant safety data that regulatory bodies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration review to determine that vaccines are safe. These safety reviews are based on rigorous criteria and information from large-scale clinical trials and data as more vaccines are rolled out.
The COVID-19 response should be guided by science and 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 safety is concerned.
No barriers should stand in the way of equitable access to vaccines, including intellectual property, which is why we are supportive of a narrow waiver during the pandemic. You can read more about our view in this statement from our CEO, Mark Suzman.
The Gates Foundation, along with Wellcome and Mastercard, are the founding funders of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (CTA), which was launched in March 2020 to evaluate new and repurposed drugs to respond to COVID-19. It has since played an important role in the search for effective treatments to reduce severe cases of COVID-19 and save lives. The CTA has funded initiatives at various stages of research and development, helping to:
- Rapidly scan a library of millions of chemical compounds to determine if the world had an existing drug that could be effective against COVID-19, thus helping refine future research.
- Support research institutes running clinical trials to determine if existing drugs can prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19.
- Establish data sharing platforms to streamline global research coordination on COVID-19 and build the foundation for improved collaboration against future pandemics.
- Support the expansion of the renowned Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY (RECOVERY) Trial, the world’s largest clinical trial for COVID-19 treatments, into more countries.
In March 2020, we announced that up to $50 million of our COVID-19 commitments would 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. Since the launch of CTA, many other donors have joined the initiative, including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the U.K. government, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, Avast, Alwaleed Philanthropies, EQT, and others.
Additionally, life science companies pledged their proprietary compounds to help identify potential drug candidates active against COVID-19.
No. We're not set up to invent or manufacture or distribute diagnostic tests. But we did 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 grants for 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.
It’s deeply troubling that people are spreading misinformation when we should be working together to save lives. We work to help people understand the facts every day. We also encourage people to consult reliable sources of information such as medical professionals and the scientific community.
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.
Revised April 26, 2021