Bill Gates: Vaccine And Philanthropy

Bill Gates: Vaccine And Philanthropy

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently announced the possible large scale production of Covid-19 vaccine by next year, adding to his long list of philanthropic works.

Crux of the Matter

Covid-19 Vaccine And Aid
Bill Gates recently announced that 200 million Covid-19 vaccine kits could be made by June 2021 by the SK Bioscience of South Korea. In May, Gates had donated $3.6 million to SK Bioscience to “accelerate” the vaccine development.

Covid Aid
Gates funded the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) in May, which is a disease surveillance programme collecting data like age, gender, previous medical conditions, etc. to monitor the spread. In May, Gates donated $50 million to Therapeutics Accelerator to accelerate the development of drugs against Covid-19, and another $50 million to the worldwide vaccine alliance Gavi.

Towards Philanthropy

  • Bill Gates stepped down as Microsoft CEO in 2000 and was replaced by Steve Ballmer. Gates also left the Microsoft board in March 2020.
  • Gates has donated $45.5 billion to charity since 1994.
  • In 2000, the ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’ was formed through the merger of the ‘William H. Gates Foundation’ and the ‘Gates Library Foundation’. The aim of the foundation is to reduce global poverty, improve healthcare, and provide education opportunities.
  • 2010: Gates launched the ‘Giving Pledge’ to invite billionaires to donate more than 50% of wealth to charitable causes.
  • 2014: Gates donated more than $50 million to fight the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
  • 2018: Gates promised the donation of $1 billion by 2023 to counter malaria, and has committed $2.9 billion to fight malaria to date.

Inheritance Of His Wealth
Bill Gates has been engaged in philanthropy since the 1990s. He has declared that his 3 children would receive $10 million each in inheritance. With a total net worth of $113 billion (as of July 2020), more than 99.9% of his wealth would be donated to charity, with less than 0.1% being received by his children in inheritance.

Controversies Around Gates
More than 600k signatures have been reached for a petition against Bill Gates, which accuses him of ‘medical malpractice’.

First such claims emerged in April, claiming that through the SCAN and other testing, Gates was attempting to plant “chips” inside human beings.

In the petition filed, Gates’s recent TED talk was taken out of context to suggest that he wants to use vaccination to reduce the population by “10-15%”. In reality, Gates has claimed at several places that parents have several children only if they know that most of them would die due to poor health. Consequently, reduced child mortality due to vaccination would make parents naturally reduce their family size.

  • Pirates of Silicon Valley is an original 1999 American made for television biographical drama film. It explores the impact that the rivalry between Jobs and Gates had on the development of the personal computer.
  • “Anti-vax” is a reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or to have one’s children vaccinated against contagious diseases despite the availability of vaccination services. It is identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten global health threats of 2019.
  • In 2019, Melinda Gates debuted as an author with the book The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. The book highlights the failure to acknowledge women’s unpaid work, drawing on feminist economist Dame Marilyn Waring’s book If Women Counted.

Moderna Covid Vaccine Shows Positive Results, Stock Soars All-Time High

Moderna cleared the Phase-I of trial for Covid vaccine after which its stock shot up to an all time high, with the market in euphoria over progress in fight against Coronavirus. In the Phase-II of the vaccine trial, Moderna will administer vaccine on 600 patients from 18-55 (300 patients) and 55 years and above (300 patients) age groups.
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

The Vaccine – How It Works?
Moderna company was working with the backing of US National Institutes of Health (NIH) under the leadership of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The vaccine for Covid-19 is named mRNA-1273, standing for Messenger Ribonucleic Acid. The Vaccine codes the “spike protein” in the body, which the virus uses to enter and reproduce in the host cell.

Consequently, the body learns about the virus’s design without the injection of the weakened virus in the body and develops the required antibodies to repel the virus.

Vaccine On Trial
Phase-I of the trial began on 16 March 2020 with 45 participants. The initial results were positive as subjects developed required antibodies against Covid-19. Participants receiving a high dose developed more antibodies than Covid-19 recovered patients. Importantly, participants receiving low dose developed antibodies equal to the recovered patients of the disease. No major side-effects were noted except chills, fever, and minor redness at the injection site. The vaccine was cleared for the Phase-II trial on 7 May.

Moderna Stocks Shoot Up
Moderna signed a deal with Lonza group AG for the production of Covid vaccine. It also received $483 million from US Govt to accelerate the testing and production. Due to the initial trial’s success, Moderna’s stocks shot up by 39% after the announcement. On 18 May, the share price reached an all-time high of $87. After the initial frenzy, the shares dropped to $71.60.

Meanwhile In Bangladesh
More positive news came from Asia, as Bangladesh successfully tested a combination of drugs on Covid-19 patients. The medical team used a combination of Ivermectin (An anti-protozoal drug) and Dioxycyclin (An antibiotic) on 60 Covid patients. According to the reports, all 60 patients, having acute symptoms, recovered with no side-effects.

The repeated or second tests, in line with the procedure, reconfirmed them Covid-19 negative in all the cases under the research which found the combination to have no side effects on patients either.

Dr. Md Tarek Alam, Head of Medicine Department, Bangladesh Medical College Hospital (BMCH)
  • In 2018, Moderna had the largest biotech initial public offering (IPO) in history, raising $600 million for 8% of its shares, implying an overall valuation of $7.5 billion, and with cumulative losses since inception of $1.5 billion. In May 2020, Moderna was valued at $30 billion.
  • Wall Street is an eight-block-long street running in Lower Manhattan in New York City. Anchored by Wall Street, New York City has been called both the most economically powerful city and the leading financial center of the world, and the city is home to the world’s two largest stock exchanges by total market capitalization, the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.
  • The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), established in 1875, is Asia’s oldest stock exchange. The BSE is the world’s 10th largest stock exchange with an overall market capitalization of more than $2.2 trillion as of April 2018.

BCG v/s COVID-19: Can Old Friend Beat New Foe?

A preliminary study was posted on medRxiv, an online archive for unpublished medical research and pre-print articles, that regarded TB/BCG vaccine as a potential answer to the COVID-19 ridden world. Subsequently researchers all over the world have started providing additional data inputs on the same, with WHO issuing a public advisory to keep the clueless public in sync with them. So before the clinical development of a new vaccine for COVID-19 is successful, can BCG help us in reducing the symptoms, if not be the ultimate cure, in the meantime?
Complete Coverage: Coronavirus

Crux of the Matter

What’s all the hype about?
Since more than 3 billion people have been its recipients in the past century, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine is the world’s most used vaccine & is cheap and safe to be used for protection against respiratory infections and child morbidity and mortality.

Tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19 may be two very different respiratory diseases wherein the former is caused by a type of bacteria (Mycobacterium Tuberculosis) and the latter is caused by a virus strain (SARS-CoV-2). However, the new epidemiological study has discovered a probable correlation between countries where it is mandatory to be vaccinated against the lung-damaging TB or BCG, and the impact of COVID-19.

Source: CDC, A Database of Global BCG Vaccination Policies and practices

Gonzalo Otazu, one of the study’s authors said how the team became curious to know why countries like South Korea having lenient social isolation policies were faring better in the fight against COVID-19 than ones like Italy, USA and Netherlands who had taken more stringent containment measures. As they dug deeper, it was found that the former had a universal tuberculosis vaccination policy while the latter had none.

Stating timing as an important factor, the scientists contrasted two countries that have applied universal BCG vaccination, Japan to Iran, but at different periods of time. Japanese policy was placed in 1947 and it has about 100 fewer deaths per million inhabitants than Iran, whose policy got activated later in 1984. Similarly China, where this 21st century pandemic began, has a BCG vaccine policy but it wasn’t adhered to strictly before 1976. 

Global Race for framing the perfect trials
Without further ado, countries around the globe have started off their respective probes and forming hypotheses. Australia plans to test the BCG vaccine on a larger scale to protect it’s healthcare staff and 4000+ workers would participate in this trial named BRACE, as per Murdoch Institute in Melbourne. Denise Faustman, director of immunobiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston has been studying BCG for years as a therapy for type 1 diabetes. She wants to seek institutional permission to mount a trial at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

According to Rakesh Mishra, director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in the nation with the largest manufacturing capacity of BCG, India, isolation and quarantine work the best against COVID-19 as of now.

BCG and Coronavirus: When a bacterium and virus meet
Dr. Randy Cron of University of Alabama, Birmingham says BCG is a live-attenuated vaccine, containing live but weakened TB. This is called an adaptive immune response that provokes the body to develop antibodies to attack the specific pathogen after encountering it.

The only catch being, that it would be risky to administer it to hospitalized COVID-19 patients as they would have a compromised immune system or a system that simply overreacts to the  SARS -CoV-2 virus, causing a deadly effect called cytokine storm. Cytokines are small proteins released by many different cells in the body that coordinate the body’s response against infection and trigger inflammation. But when more than required immune cells are activated, it results in hyperinflammation.

The unlikely allies in causing destruction

Glitches in this medical fairytale
The current number of coronavirus cases is dramatically underestimated around the world due to shortages of diagnostic tests. It is even likely that under-funded health systems have low COVID-19 testing capacity, but happen to have universal BCG vaccination policies still in place, given that TB burden is highest in such places.

Then there exist countries with varying underlying demographic characteristics, such as differences in the age distribution of the populations of interest. South-East Asia and Africa have a median age of 27.0 and 18.7 years while Europe has a median age of 38.6 years, which is integral data to be considered for COVID-19 whose severity increases with age.

What Doctor WHO says
The WHO (World Health Organization) has coldly stated how there is no solid evidence that the BCG vaccine can help in COVID-19 prevention and thus wouldn’t recommend it. It was quoted as saying “Studies like the Johns Hopkins one, are prone to significant bias from many confounders, including differences in national demographics and disease burden, testing rates for COVID-19 virus infections, and the stage of the pandemic in each country.”

Currently two clinical trials are underway and it will evaluate the evidence when it is available.

BCG may help in the fight against COVID-19 after all, but only well conducted, randomized and controlled clinical trials can answer this question.

Mike Frick, Project Co-director, Treatment Action Group

In the meantime, epidemiologists and doctors can provide the medical facts while communities can provide the contextual details of what has worked for them in the past in surveys conducted by the local governments.

  • Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis. In countries where tuberculosis is common, one dose is recommended in healthy babies as close to the time of birth as possible.
  • The BCG vaccine took almost 13 years to develop. When Albert Calmette, a French physician and bacteriologist, and his assistant and later colleague, Camille Guérin, a veterinarian, were not able to cause tuberculosis disease in research animals, they came to the conclusion that they had isolated the BCG Strain from virulent strain on glycerine potato medium after subculturing it 239 times (in 13 years).
  • As of 2006, only a few countries do not use BCG for routine vaccination. Two countries that have never used it routinely are the United States and the Netherlands.
  • In the summer of 1930 in Lübeck, 240 infants were vaccinated with BCG in the first 10 days of life; almost all developed tuberculosis and 72 infants died. It was subsequently discovered that the BCG administered there had been contaminated with a virulent strain that was being stored in the same incubator, which led to legal action against the manufacturers of the vaccine.