The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $150 million to the Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, to develop 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine on Friday. The vaccine, priced at $3 per dose, will aim to provide relief to lower-income countries, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZenca are developing the vaccine in collaboration with Novavax. Novavax partnered with SII, giving the Indian firm exclusive rights to supply the vaccine in India. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, the vaccine will also be distributed in countries that the World Bank deems to be lower-income countries.
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"Researchers are making good progress on developing safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19," Bill Gates said in a statement. "But making sure everyone has access to them, as soon as possible, will require tremendous manufacturing capacity and a global distribution network."
The three organizations said that their collaboration will ensure that lower- and middle-income countries are not forgotten.
The United Nations reported that COVID-19 will have the most devastating impact in the least developed countries. Weaker health systems in these countries have fewer resources to respond to the outbreak of infections and cannot afford the socio-economic consequences caused by lockdown measures.
"Unless bold actions are taken by the international community, achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline will likely slip out of reach," the UN found.
The SDGs are a set of goals designed by the UN in 2015 to end extreme poverty, reduce inequality, and protect the planet by 2030.
The United Nations Foundation predicts that the pandemic will push 71 million people back into extreme poverty by the end of the year — marking the first increase in global poverty rates in nearly 20 years.
The COVID-19 crisis is not only making progress harder, but actively undoing past work done towards achieving the SDGs.
Although many companies were already developing coronavirus vaccines, the donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will further accelerate and organize SII's work.
In June, in response to Global Citizen'sGlobal Goal: United for Our Futurecampaign, SII committed 50% of their COVID-19 vaccine production capacity to low- and middle- income countries, which will ensure that more than 250 million doses of a vaccine will be saved for the world's most vulnerable countries.
Once the vaccines get approval from the WHO, SII says the doses could be produced as early as the first half of 2021. Upfront investments will also allow SII to increase its manufacturing capacity to develop the vaccines in large doses, ready for distribution.
Gates has been advocating for more robust virus preparation for years.
"If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes," Gates said in his TedTalk in 2015.
Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a partner of Global Citizen.