New Delhi: As India battles the deadly second wave of Covid-19 pandemic, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates’ recent remarks on patents in vaccine technology have sparked a row.
Gates, in an interview on 25 April with British news broadcaster Sky News, was asked if it would be better to share intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines with developing countries. To this, he answered, no.
“The thing that’s holding things back, in this case, is not intellectual property… It’s not like there’s some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines,” Gates was quoted as saying.
He also said, “There’s only so many vaccine factories in the world, and people are very serious about the safety of vaccines…Moving a vaccine, say, from a [Johnson & Johnson] factory into a factory in India, it’s novel, it’s only because of our grants and expertise that can happen at all.”
His remarks drew criticism even from supporters of his philanthropic efforts.
Progressive political commentator Krystal Ball, who co-hosts news web series Rising, said the US, European Union pharma companies have been trying to keep vaccine formulas a secret to profit from them and have “an extraordinarily powerful ally in that fight to protect their bottom line, human lives be damned – our own supposed savior of global public health, Bill Gates”.
In another episode of Rising, Democratic strategist Jennifer Holdsworth Karp said, “I think that Bill Gates has done a lot for vaccine competency over the years. Having said that, 100 per cent, this is about patent protection”, and not actually about concerns of vaccine production quality. Karp added, “If he was true to his mission that he’s been following for the last 20 years” of vaccine distribution, then Gates would now be at the “forefront” of making sure every capable factory was “operating at full capacity”.
‘Vaccine racist, monopolist’
Several Twitter users also took a dig at Gates and his supporters.
A Twitter user said, “Watching liberals slowly learn Bill Gates is bad is a delight… he’s always been like this, a monopolist who puts profits above all”.
Watching liberals slowly learn Bill Gates is bad is a delight
— Aggressively Normal (@DoctorFishbones) April 29, 2021
Another user tweeted, “I don’t want to cause too much controversy on the left, but I do not think bill gates has our best interests at heart (sic).”
I don't want to cause too much controversy on the left, but I do not think bill gates has our best interests at heart.
— Jack Saint (@lackingsaint) April 29, 2021
Bill Gates defending IP when tens of thousands are dying globally while we sit on vaccine patents is exactly what will happen if we rely on tech to solve the climate crisis.
— J. Mijin Cha 차미진 (@jmijincha) April 30, 2021
Jordan Schachtel, an independent journalist, said, “In September of 2019, Bill Gates spent $55MM on a pre-ipo equity investment into BioNtech, which later partnered with Pfizer to make its mRNA vax. That Gates investment is now worth over $550 million dollars.”
In September of 2019, Bill Gates spent $55MM on a pre-ipo equity investment into BioNtech, which later partnered with Pfizer to make its mRNA vax.
That Gates investment is now worth over $550 million dollars.
No further questions, plebs!
— Jordan Schachtel (@JordanSchachtel) April 29, 2021
Closer to India, a Sri Lanka-based writer wrote, “Bill Gates is a vaccine racist. He thinks Indians – who make 60% of all vaccines – are ‘unsafe’.”
Bill Gates is a vaccine racist. He thinks Indians – who make 60% of all vaccines – are 'unsafe'. He thinks the colored world is a bunch of Oompa-Loompas… and he's Billy Wonka.
— indica (@indica) April 30, 2021