Philanthropist Bill Gates expressed disappointment with President Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the World Health Organization, saying that the agency was critical to the global effort to eliminate polio — and to respond to future epidemics.

“WHO is important for all the global health work that we do,” Gates told reporters in a teleconference this week. “Everyone should make sure that if we need to improve the WHO, that’s what we do, but that we stay together.”

Gates said he hasn’t spoken to Trump yet about the WHO withdrawal announcement, but may do so in the future. He added that he hoped Trump’s decision could be walked back.

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“I’m hopeful it’ll turn into a desire for improvement rather than a withdrawal,” he said.

Gates met with reporters to discuss the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s five-year, $1.6 billion commitment to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

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Gavi, which helps low- and middle-income countries purchase vaccines for children, staged its replenishment conference Thursday. The Geneva-based organization hoped to raise $7.4 billion to finance the purchase of vaccines for 300 million children, but managed to raise substantially more — $8.8 billion, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the conference, announced.

In interview with STAT two years ago, Bill Gates said he urged President Trump to invest in ways “that would help us deal with a pandemic’’

 

In the 20 years since it was created, Gavi has helped to vaccinate 760 million children. Gates said the organization is the single largest recipient of his foundation’s funding.

“The devastating impact of Covid-19 is a huge reminder of how vulnerable we are to disease,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got billions of people in lockdown because we don’t have a vaccine or cure for Covid-19.”

The Gates Foundation on Thursday also pledged $100 million to a separate fund Gavi has created to finance the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries. Of that amount $50 million is new funding; the remaining money was pledged in May.

The money is being contributed to Gavi’s advanced purchasing commitment, a tool to incentivize vaccine manufacturers to ensure access for low- and middle-income countries to eventual Covid-19 vaccines. Gavi is initially hoping to raise $2 billion to purchase vaccines for health worker and other high-risk individuals.

“The world needs to work together to develop safe and effective vaccines and make sure that we scale up the manufacturing so we can get them out to those who need them the most — not just those who can pay the most,” Gates said.

In responding to the president’s WHO announcement, Gates raised concerns about the impact on the U.S. commitment to eradicate polio. About one-third of the funding the U.S. contributes to the global health agency supports the polio eradication effort, which the WHO leads. Other partners in the effort are Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, and the Gates Foundation.

“How would you do it without WHO?” Gates mused. “In the case of polio, I can’t imagine how that would work.”

Gates was also asked about being at the center of conspiracy theories that have swirled around the effort to develop Covid-19 vaccines — specifically the theory that the eventual vaccines will contain microchips to track people who have been vaccinated. The claims have been given fuel by some activists seeking to undermine acceptance of the coronavirus vaccines.

On the call, Gates sounded flummoxed by it all.

“In a way it’s so bizarre, you almost want to view it as something humorous,” he said, “but I guess it’s really not a humorous thing.”

  • The paranoia in the public towards this rare, phylanthropic rich man – who is willing to share his wealth so un-selfishly – is disgusting. This seems based on jealousy and fear, and both are misplaced. Gates is doing what far too few hyper-rich Americans don’t do : aim to make the world better by voluntarily spending for the poor in this world. Shame on the short-sighted !!

  • Personally I’m delighted as all get out with President Trump’s decision.
    Sorry Mr. eugenicist Gates, you lose. Stick your vaccines, all of them.
    Nothing good organic nutrition and supplements won’t cure.
    It’s not about health, never was, never will be, it’s all about control. I for one will not comply!
    Kudo President Trump!

  • I don’t know. So many projects are important but I can’t help but wonder, what does the world do, when the United States is just not able to keep spending this kind of money, regardless of the worthiness of the project. You do realize that the USA has trillions and trillions of debt? So we have to borrow money to donate money to The WHO? But that’s okay with everyone? We can go into debt, and then what?

    • And I realize that Trump is the person who withdrew the funds, so I hate to be considering whether we should be funding The WHO. It’s often a safe bet to take a position the opposite of any of Trump’s positions, but, I still have to try to evaluate things from an objective view. And no, I didn’t vote for Trump, neither am I a supporter. I voted for Obama twice, and was disappointed by his administration. Who knew how much worse, Trump could be.

  • What a great interview! “Flummoxed!” says it all. I wanted to let you know how much I value your coverage of this developing pandemic, infectious diseases and vaccines. Thank you.

  • looking at the comments, who knew statnews was as meeting point for conspiratorial simpletons?
    Buying into this microchip conspiracy, without even going to start on the political/social conspiratorial insanities, underlies a staggering ignorance about science, engineering and biology at an insane number of levels.

    Good thing statnews is supposed to attract an above average educated crowd

    • That was a very interesting article. Thanks for sharing. Mr Dipthroat above, (and what is it with that name?), seems to be trying, with every ounce of his being, to insult those who even consider the possibility/likelihood that this could happen. I think some people are just hung up on the terms “conspiracy theories” and then don’t take a moment to check it out, and they assume it’s not true or its impossible, “cuz they wouldn’t do that”, and people who indulge in the possibility are labeled “conspiracy theorists” and must be insane. I, for one, wish he was right, but unfortunately their are people in this world who crave power and are deeply greedy, and they are those who are in charge of our food, healthcare, oil, banking, and education. Don’t underestimate them. I wouldn’t put anything past them – ANYTHING, including dirty vaccinations. They lie the moment their lips move.

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