Gates Foundation’s Annual Report Finds Stark Disparities in COVID-19 Impacts

ADDIS ABABA – New Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation report shows that disparities caused by COVID-19 remain stark globally, and those who have been hardest hit by the pandemic will be the slowest to recover.

Because of COVID-19, an additional 31 million people were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the Foundation’s fifth annual Goalkeepers.

And while 90% of advanced economies will regain pre-pandemic per capita income levels by next year, only a third of low- and middle-income economies are expected to do so.

Fortunately, amidst this devastation, the world stepped up to avert some of the worst-case scenarios, says the report co-authored by Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates.

In last year’s Goalkeepers Report, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicted a drop of 14 percentage points in global vaccine coverage—effectively erasing 25 years of progress in 25 weeks.

New analysis from the Institute demonstrates that the decline, while still unacceptable, was only half of what was anticipated.

In the report published on Tuesday, the co-chairs acknowledge that averting the worst-case scenarios is commendable, yet they note it’s not enough.

To ensure a truly equitable recovery from the pandemic, they call for long-term investments in health and economies – like the ones that led to the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine – to propel recovery efforts and get the world back on track to meet the Global Goals.

“If we can expand upon the best of what we’ve seen these past 18 months,” they say, “we can finally put the pandemic behind us and once again accelerate progress in addressing fundamental issues like health, hunger, and climate change.”

Vaccine disparity

The report also illustrates how the so-called “miracle” of COVID-19 vaccines was the result of decades of investment, policies, and partnerships that established the infrastructure, talent, and ecosystems necessary to deploy them quickly.

However, it says the systems that allowed for the unprecedented development and deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine exist primarily in wealthy countries, and as a result, the world has not benefited equally.

More than 80% of all COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries to date, with some securing two to three times the number needed so they can cover boosters.

They are doing this despite the low income countries managing to administer less than 1% of doses, says the report that calls for the increasing investment in low income countries’ R&D capacity.

“We must invest in local partners to strengthen the capacity of researchers and manufacturers in lower income countries to create the vaccines and medicines they need,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.

“The only way we will solve our greatest health challenges is by drawing on the innovation and talent of people all over the world,” Suzman added.



Featured Image: Lab technicians conducting a research at Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania. The report claims COVID-19 vaccine access has been strongly correlated with the locations where there is vaccine Research and Development (R&D) as well as manufacturing capability. {Photo File/B&G Foundation]