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Gates Foundation CEO: ‘Stop stockpiling, & deploy vaccines to Africa to avoid costly new variants’

By Nicholas Norbrook

Posted on November 18, 2021 15:58

The CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Mark Suzman argues that rather than hoarding booster shots, the West and other regions with spare vaccine capacity should prioritise Africa.

The Covid-19 virus arrived in an era of sharpened national identity struggles.

From Trump to Brexit, via fights on European borders, and China’s saber rattling around Taiwan, the pandemic provides (another) unique collective action problem.

For Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this can be best seen in the thorny problem over where to deploy limited supplies of vaccines.

Suzman argues that spare capacity in the West and elsewhere should not just be ploughed back into third dose boosters, but rather “could and should have much greater impact” if deployed in Africa for global health outcomes.

“It is so clearly the right thing to do by any calculus”, he says.

Even if you reject the moral arguments around vaccinating higher risk populations and healthcare workers ahead of lower risk populations elsewhere, argues Suzman, the public health arguments are weighty.

From the risk of new variants developing that might be more vaccine resistant, to the potential $5bn hit to the global economy the IMF thinks could happen should a new Delta-style variant emerge, to the benefits of allowing fuller recovery of economic transactions that free travel would permit, all these “make this a classic no brainer”, says Suzman

“But what is rational at a global level becomes very challenging at the level of domestic politics”, he says, “where each national government is listening to domestic constituencies worried about the need to hoard booster shots.”

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