Focus on vaccine facts, urges Bill Gates
Johannesburg - As scepticism around Covid-19 vaccines spreads, Microsoft founder Bill Gates says history speaks for itself on the efficiency and live-saving nature of vaccinations.
The Microsoft founder and his wife, Melinda, through their foundation, used their annual newsletter to highlight concerns raised by the Covid-19 pandemic and also attempted to offer solutions.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent $1.75 billion on Covid-19 initiatives over the past year. Some of the funds have gone towards funding research related to procuring more efficient vaccines.
Gates said the outbreak of the pandemic had highlighted the strong contrast between health-care initiatives and the need for a greater global response to health issues.
There have been growing fears around the issue of vaccine nationalism, a concern raised recently by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a plea to leaders at the World Economic Forum.
Gates said the idea of "vaccine nationalism" had always been a concern during the pandemic, especially as vaccine roll outs have begun in many Western nations, with little movement in developing nations.
The Gates said a drive for vaccinations should be seen as global because every country would continue being affected by outbreaks if most of the world's population was not vaccinated.
"From the beginning of the pandemic, we have urged wealthy nations to remember that Covid‐19 anywhere is a threat everywhere. Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of the disease would keep popping up. The clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices would shut again. The cycle of inequality would continue," Melinda Gates wrote.
Gates said hope for the countries left behind, lay in three vaccines, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, which were cheaper to manufacture and easier to distribute.
He said there was hope that many doses would come from the vaccines and help bridge the vaccine inequality gap.
On vaccine scepticism, Gates said that was unfortunate as history had long proved the efficiency of vaccinations. Gates has been used as part of widespread conspiracy news around the dangers posed by vaccines, claims which he has denied.
"I hope people will read the facts about vaccines, and how they’ve worked against other diseases, and see that now we have millions and millions of people who've taken this vaccine and we're tracking that experience to make sure we were right about the overall safety.
“It is going to be a tragedy if a country continues to have an epidemic because of these false vaccine rumours," Gates said in a presser on Tuesday night.
The former Microsoft chief executive said solutions to being better prepared for the next pandemic would mean governments had to start with developing global response systems, backed by diagnostic testing.
Gates said a system of disease first responders should also be created to help track infectious disease.
He said another solution was to increase the speed of the response to virus outbreaks, because the faster the response, the easier a virus’s spread could be halted.