Coronavirus

Bill Gates: Corona ruined 25 years of vaccine advances

Ludovic Marin / AFP via Getty Images; Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Goalkeepers 2020

For decades, people around the world have been getting richer and healthier on average. Slowly but surely, the number of people living on less than $ 1.90 a day has declined. Until now.

2020 and the pandemic have dealt a severe blow to people around the world – both their wallets and their collective health. The coronavirus has deepened the gap between rich and poor in almost all countries in a way that has not happened in decades.

“This year is different – it’s unprecedented,” said Bill Gates on a conference call with reporters leading up to the release of the Goalkeepers 2020 Report, which his foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, publishes every year. “The corona pandemic not only slowed progress – it set it back.”

The development is unparalleled in the twenty-year history of the 50 billion dollar foundation. Launched in 2017, the Goalkeepers Report provides an annual overview of progress around the world on poverty, health and well-being, sanitation, education and other sustainability goals.

“Each and every one of these goals was moving in the right direction,” said Gates on the phone call, which replaced a usually star-studded event. “The pandemic has exacerbated inequality in almost every area.” This year there has been almost no progress – apart from more people around the world who have quit smoking.

“We must face the current reality with honesty,” the report says. “We’ve taken a step backwards.” Here are some of the biggest setbacks on the horizon:

The last time so many countries were in recession in 1870

The World Bank estimates that global poverty rates will rise dramatically for the first time since 1998, “as the world economy falls into recession.”

The International Monetary Fund expects the decline in gross domestic product due to the coronavirus pandemic to be much worse compared to the 2008 recession.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Goalkeepers 2020

In terms of GDP decline, “this is the worst recession since the end of World War II,” the report says. The GDP decline is twice that of the 2008 recession.

“The last time that so many countries were in recession at once was in 1870, two lifetimes ago,” it continues. The number of people living on less than $ 1.90 a day – the international benchmark for extreme poverty – is increasing as the virus spreads.

Global poverty is increasing for the first time in 20 years

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Goalkeepers 2020

“37 million more people live in extreme poverty,” says Gates. “And that after 20 years in which this number has steadily decreased.” This decline is not limited to poor countries. In rich countries like the United States, income growth has been uneven in recent years, with the richest growing wealth faster than anyone else.

Now this gap is getting bigger. According to the US Census Bureau, about one in three Americans struggled to pay their bills in August due to the pandemic. Blacks and Latin Americans in particular are disproportionately affected.

Access to vaccines: 25 years of progress undone in 25 weeks

Kim Kulish / Corbis via Getty Images

The pandemic has also left many children without life-saving vaccines. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (the Gates Foundation’s data partner), 25 years of progress in vaccinating the world against deadly diseases was wiped out in 25 weeks.

Worldwide, the vaccination rate for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough or DTP has decreased to a lower level. This has not been seen since the 1990s.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Goalkeepers 2020

People sometimes get a tetanus shot when they step on a nail. It is an infection that herd immunity cannot contain because people are too easily infected by contaminated wounds, infected dust or manure.

This is why it is so important that everyone has access to basic preventive vaccinations like DTP, which prevent millions of deaths each year.

Girls do not return to schools after pandemic

In Gaza, a 13-year-old teaches neighborhood children because schools are closed due to the pandemic.

In Gaza, a 13-year-old teaches neighborhood children because the schools are closed due to the pandemic.

Reuters

No doubt the closure of schools during the pandemic saved some lives. The schoolchildren who were taken out of school also fell behind that some children will never be able to catch up, according to the Goalkeepers report.

It is also expected that the percentage of students who will learn to read will drop sharply.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Goalkeepers 2020

Having to stay at home poses a high risk, especially for girls. Even during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it was documented that they were increasingly exposed to both physical and sexual abuse at such times. After the pandemic, many girls are unlikely to return to the classroom. This can be due to pregnancy or a lack of free time for schoolwork – both during and after quarantine.

To address these issues and improve their situation, “the most important thing is to end the pandemic,” says Bill Gates.

We need a safe, effective vaccine for everyone

AP Photo / Ted S. Warren

In dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, Gates says the only thing the US deserves to be applauded for is its work on coronavirus vaccines. The country has supported the research and development of several leading vaccine candidates. Speaking to Insider, Gates said that “among these numerous vaccines, there will be something that is very effective and very safe.”

However, the success of US vaccine programs is not guaranteed. According to the Goalkeepers report, “the probability of success in the early stages is 7 percent and 17 percent once candidates move on to human testing.”

Most of the 175+ vaccine candidates tested worldwide are likely to be unsuccessful. Because of this, more than 170 countries – but not the US – have signed Covax. This is an international agreement that supports the development of a vaccine and its fair distribution.

Gates says that any country has “direct” and “selfish” reasons why it should invest in such collaboration and invest in building factories to manufacture vaccines around the world.

“It’s very, very difficult to create the perfect barrier between your own country and the rest of the world,” he said. In contrast, in a world where most people are vaccinated against the virus, “this is what allows us to go back to normal,” he added.

If 50 of the richest countries in the world – including the US – buy up the first two billion doses of vaccine and hoard them for their own people, “almost twice as many people could die from Covid-19.” Goalkeepers report is cited.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Goalkeepers 2020

Gates said it is time the US got “more generous” and invested more money in vaccine manufacturing plants around the world. It would be an impetus to become a leader in global health again – just as the US was in the past under both Republican and Democratic governments.

“I am concerned that some donors are not having the same priorities as before when it comes to the quality or amount of their aid,” said Gates. “It shouldn’t be about how much the rich countries can offer, but rather that justice and equal opportunities prevail.”

His most optimistic assessment is that it will take “two to three years” to get the global development goals back on track. “We are convinced that we can cope with this situation,” he said.

This article was translated from English and edited by Ilona Tomić. You can read the original here.

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