I

n these early days of Donald Trump’s administration, Americans and the rest of the world have been watching the education and evolution of a new president. Foreign policy is tricky. Replacing the Affordable Care Act isn’t so easy.

On the global health front, too, the new administration is on the steep part of the learning curve. And people worried about its understanding of and appreciation for the benefits of US global health spending — worries exacerbated by proposed to-the-bone cuts in the president’s budget blueprint — are hoping to fast-track that education process.

Among them is billionaire Bill Gates, the cofounder of Microsoft and the world’s richest man.

advertisement

Gates, who with his wife, Melinda, runs the enormously influential Gates Foundation, met last month with Trump at the White House, his second meeting with the 45th president since Election Day.

In a recent interview with STAT, the philanthropist talked about how he made the case for global health — and vaccines — to Trump. Though the meeting took place several weeks ago, Gates didn’t speak publicly about the most recent meeting after it took place.

“Absolutely!” Gates answered emphatically, when asked if he raised the topic of vaccines with the new president. Vaccines “are miracles and have done great things, and when we get new ones, we can do a lot. That definitely came up.”

Trump has raised concerns about vaccines, repeating discredited claims that vaccination can trigger autism. Prominent vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. reported late last year that Trump had asked him to chair a commission exploring vaccine safety. So far, Trump has been publicly silent on whether he intends to proceed with that panel.

Gates said he tried to impress upon the president the danger of confusing the messages around vaccines. He knows his comments registered with Trump, because the president repeated them later when he met with a delegation from the pharmaceutical industry.

“I heard when he saw pharma guys he said he was still wondering about vaccines, but he did mention to them that I’d said to him that I’d looked at it and that they were completely safe and that we shouldn’t raise any doubts about that.”

Still, Gates isn’t certain that means Trump has been persuaded to drop the idea of a vaccine safety inquiry. “There’s a rumor that he is going to do something in that area,” Gates said. “But maybe I and others will convince him that that’s not worthwhile.”

Gates said he also pushed hard for foreign aid during the meeting, trying to make the point that programs that would likely be targeted for deep cuts under his proposed budget are actually a highly valuable way to spend US money.

“As I was talking to people in the executive branch, including President Trump, they probably were a little surprised by how much I said that the $8.6 billion — which is the global health piece in the State Department budget — or the $1.5 billion, which is the agriculture piece, or even some of the other pieces that help fund World Bank or the UN agencies that are our partners, that I do view those as quite effective and I do view them as quite strategic,” Gates said.

The administration proposed a cut of 28 percent cut to the budget for the State Department and the US Agency for International Development.

Rob Nabors, the Gates Foundation’s director of policy, advocacy, and communications, knows where global health spending money nestles in the budget and sees this large cut as endangering those programs.

“Something is going to take much more than a whack. It’s going to take a deep, deep cut to something that either works or something that is incredibly popular or most likely both,” he told STAT.

Newsletters

Sign up for our Daily Recap newsletter

Please enter a valid email address.

“What I can’t tell you right now is who is going to be upset. But what I can tell you is that there are going to be a lot of people that are upset. And it’s going to be … because people are cutting programs that have had a tremendous amount of success alleviating development problems abroad and making the world a more secure place.”

Gates, however, said he believed that Congress would use a more measured approach to crafting next year’s budget. Many of the elected representatives there have traveled to distant parts of the world to see how US aid money changes lives. The Gates Foundation has organized many of those trips; Gates calls those efforts “the most valuable thing we’ve done.”

“And it’s partly why, when you get a new administration in, it’s not that surprising that they think, ‘Hey, foreign aid, what’s in there? There must be a lot of stuff that’s not all that impactful or strategic,’” Gates said, noting he’s “quite optimistic” Congress understands the value of programs like PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and the polio eradication program.

“But we are having to articulate how these programs have become smarter over time and why we choose to put literally billions of dollars of the foundation’s money into these causes,” he noted.

It’s “an education process. … It’s mostly new people. And I think some of the things that were in the mini-budget — like the idea of substantially reducing PEPFAR — I don’t think that will end up being what the government chooses to do.”

Does he hope to get Trump to see firsthand how US global health funding is spent? Perhaps a trip to see the work being done to finally rid the world of Guinea worm, an effort led by former President Jimmy Carter’s foundation?

“It’s a good idea,” said Gates, whose foundation helps fund the Guinea worm eradication program. “We should get him out there. [But] it’s pretty far away from Trump Tower.”

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • I find it interesting that Bill Gates is so concerned on the topic of vaccines and at the same time population control. Let’s put two and two together. Vaccines are neither safe or effective.

    • Just what I was going to comment ! It’s insane the vaccines they are giving our babies from birth on. I can’t quote the exact numbers but it is many more (and earlier) than in the past. “Crib deaths” have climbed a great deal in past few years. Drug co. Cannot be sued, they are not accountable. Vaccinations cause many health injuries. HPV vacs suggested for 12year olds. Many young people have been injured even died from them. Vaccinations are one of Big Pharmas cash cows.

  • Bill Gates and all those other Gaziilionaires have enough money between them all to help with foreign aid!! What do they do with all the Gazzillions they have?? They want us to pay them to poison us!!!! Are we that STUPID! I know I’m not!! We need to protect our future generations! President Trump needs to protect us!! Don’t let them threaten you Mr. President!! We got your back with prayers for Gods protection!

  • Gates has zero medical background, is being seud for injecting thousands of children with fraudulent vaccines, and is only parroting a narrative that will make him financially better… Philanthropist? That’s a joke.
    His integrity is completely compromised and has zero credibility…

  • Dear Mr. Trump I’m asking you not to consider Bill Gates with force vaccines I’m asking that you look at him that it is a big money deal for him and the pharmaceutical company . I do not think that you should consider for a fact things I think it’s the parents right I think it’s going to cost of division and anger Bill Gates is not to be trusted I would appreciate it that you would lean more toward Robert Kennedy Junior

  • I do not agree with Bill gates in any manner it has to do with money the risks outweigh the benefits it’s very dangerous kids are dying injured no one in this country should ever have the parents right taken away from them they should have freedom of choice as his children do not understand and they tried

  • HOW VACCINE POLICY IS DETERMINED IN AUSTRALIA… AND AMERICA

    “Mandatory vaccination is a problem because, as Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull admitted to the media, he and his wife “work very much as a team” to accomplish their various agendas. In the case of vaccinations, this means supporting legislation and mandates that require people to be vaccinated, even against their will, which has the effect of padding both pharmaceutical profits and their personal portfolios.

    Australia’s politicians are deeply tied to pharmaceutical corporations, the British Monarchy, and other corporate and institutional powers which threaten the freedom and prosperity of Australian citizens,” explains The Mind Unleashed.”

    It’s no different in the U.S. The only thing stopping corrupt politicians from legislating mandatory vaccination for all American children and adults right now is Donald Trump. That’s not public health policy—that’s Medical Mafia corruption at its worst.

    http://vaccines.news/2017-03-21-mandatory-vaccine-push-by-big-pharma-tied-to-australian-prime-ministers-wife.html

  • PARENTS—DEMAND INDEPENDENT VACCINE SAFETY STUDIES
    Why don’t the vaccine companies want independent vaccine safety studies performed—instead of the self-serving fraudulent studies they’ve been performing for the past 100 years?

    What are they so afraid of—going to prison for the autism holocaust they created?

    Everyone should STOP VACCINATING THEIR CHILDREN until:
    • legitimate vaccine safety studies are performed that’s completely independent of big pharma’s influence, and
    • the U.S. Vaccine Injury (and death) Court—which gives vaccine manufacturers and doctors unprecedented liability protections—is abolished.

Sign up for our Biotech newsletter — The Readout

Your daily guide to what’s new in biotech.