American tech mogul and philanthropist Bill Gates on Friday urged high-income countries to support global pandemic efforts and to enable more vaccine access for the rest of the world.
"While amazing scientific advances have delivered vaccines quicker than ever, the task now is to ensure everyone can benefit from them. Many countries have made generous financial contributions, and commitments to donate doses to support the critical efforts," he said at the Global Health Summit held in Rome via virtual conference.
Such efforts, however, were not enough to take COVID-19 under control after more than a year into the pandemic, according to Gates, the co-chair of the Bill amp; Melinda Gates Foundation that focuses on healthcare and reducing extreme poverty.
"Even the Unites States and Europe seem to be turning the corner, other countries are experiencing their highest peaks. If current trends continue, we will see continued devastating loss of life," said Gates, the co-founder of US software firm Microsoft.
He noted that more than 80% of the first billion COVID-19 shots went to people in wealthy countries, while only 0.2% of the vaccines went to low-income nations.
"Now is the time for global leadership, solidarity and responsibility. We must ensure more equitable access to the vaccines. If we do not close this immense gap, more people will die needlessly," he said.
Gates proposed two immediate actions that countries can take: "Share dollars and doses."
"We need governments to contribute their fair share to acting agencies and fill the financial gap in 2021. Also, high-income countries have reserved more vaccines than they need. Without compromise in their domestic vaccination efforts, these countries can become part of an effort to accelerate global vaccine access by sharing those excess doses," he said.
Gates encouraged developed nations to be bold and commit as soon as possible to sharing a billion doses this year through global health partnerships such as GAVI, the vaccine alliance.
"Finally, this pandemic has taught us that we need to be better prepared for the next one ... We need measures such as more integrated surveillance systems, rapid vaccine manufacturing, resilient health systems and sustainable financing," he said.