According to Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, India’s fight against the Covid issue has established a good global precedent, and it may serve as a model for others in terms of how it tackled the manufacture and distribution of vaccinations on such a large scale.
“We were proud to be able to help work with the Indian government and with partners like the Serum Institute of India, to help manufacture some of the vaccines and to help with some of the primary health care facilities to help with distribution and in some of the states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where we work closely, but it really is a model both because of the direct COVID response, but also because the infrastructure that’s been put in place has lots of positive effects by other forms of healthcare,” Suzman told ANI in an exclusive interview.
According to the most recent data from India’s health ministry, it has delivered over 2.2 billion doses. When asked what obstacles the foundation encountered during and after the Covid epidemic, she stated that the pandemic had a terrible impact, particularly on economic growth, poverty, and people’s health.
“Yes, well, globally COVID has had a devastating impact. And not just in terms of the direct impact of the disease itself, but the knock-on impact on economic growth on poverty on health. So across large parts, I think around a third of the developing world is likely to be in recession,” he said.
However, he feels India is at a “bright light” since the country’s larger healthcare ecosystem has advanced.
“From vaccination campaigns to nutrition campaigns to sanitation campaigns. And so in all of those areas, we’re trying to sound the call to action and saying the world really needs to support and engage much more deeply so that we can start to accelerate progress again.”
The Gates Foundation has been active in India for almost two decades, working in a variety of industries ranging from agriculture to financial services and health care, among others. Furthermore, he stated that the Indian government has already demonstrated a strong commitment to driving forward in mitigating global health issues, as well as broader development issues such as digital infrastructure and financial services, which can be examples of India addressing some of these issues.
“And so I think at the government of India’s stated ambition to try and tackle both those things, the issues of pandemic preparedness and global health response so that we can both finish the job on COVID and be ready to address the next pandemic, but also to think about these wider development challenges and using new tools like the digital financial infrastructure that India has developed through UPI, but also some of the new initiatives like the use of environment Digital Health Initiative, which we think again as some very positive models that we’ll be able to use in Africa and other parts of the developing world,” the CEO said.
Meanwhile, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated on Monday that it will invest USD 8.3 billion in 2023 to continue its battle against poverty, sickness, and unfairness. It intends to meet its goal of a USD 9 billion yearly payout by 2026.
On the pledge for 2023 and its commitment to fight malaria through equipping partner countries, Suzman said: “Malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people every year still and is responsible for many millions of cases. India has made great strides addressing some of the most serious incidents remaining in sort of central and west Africa, but they’re also it’s in South Asia and Latin America.”
He went on to say that there have been a lot of initiatives taken, including the distribution of new pesticides, mosquito nets, and other treatments and instruments in malarial regions, all of which have been quite successful.
“There are some new scientific advances using monoclonal antibodies, which is sort of complex and still expensive, but we’ve seen 80 to 90 per cent success rates in addressing malaria and we think those are going to be the tools that over the next decade or two, the world will actually move from containing and preventing malaria to eventually eradicating it. And that is our innovation,” he further said.
The foundation’s aim is to envision a society in which every individual has the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. Finally, when asked if the foundation is working on reverse zoonosis, he stated that they are in discussions with India’s department of biotechnology, and that the foundation is aware of the problems of how animal health is related to human health.
“We also are global supporters of an initiative called the Coalition for epidemic preparedness initiative (CEPI) which is a major global effort that is trying to develop protective vaccines against other diseases that could become future pandemics. And so, we work on all of those areas, but really in partnership, we don’t take the lead on those research. We do it through coalitions with partnerships with governments like India or the United States.” An infection or disease that is transmissible from humans to animals under natural conditions is called reverse zoonosis.