In the early days of the pandemic, President Trump made headlines when he reportedly tried to secure rights to a vaccine from German developer CureVac on behalf of the US government—a move that stirred questions about equity and justice. Should the United States get priority access to the Covid vaccine just because we are the world’s wealthiest nation? Shouldn’t the most vulnerable—no matter their nationality or salary—get vaccinated first?
“Capitalism has its limits,” one German lawmaker noted in a widely reported tweet.
Had Trump succeeded, the deal might also have sent another stark message about economic inequality—delivering a financial windfall to one of the most moneyed players in the pandemic response: the Gates Foundation.
The foundation recently reported a $40 million stake in CureVac—one of dozens of investments the foundation reports having in companies working on Covid vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics or manufacturing, according to The Nation’s analysis of the foundation’s most recent tax return, web site, and various SEC filings. The foundation has also announced that it will “leverage a portion of its $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund” to advance its work on Covid.
These investments, amounting to more than $250 million, show that the world’s most visible charity, and one of the world’s most influential voices in the pandemic response, is in a position to potentially reap considerable financial gains from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gates’s reported investment in CureVac, alone, may have already delivered tens of millions of dollars in shareholder value for the nonprofit Gates Foundation. Even though Trump’s bid for CureVac failed, the company’s stock skyrocketed 400 percent just two days after going public in August.
Revelations of the Gates Foundation’s financial stake in Covid-19, which Bill Gates does not appear to have publicly disclosed in dozens of recent media appearances, speak to broader criticisms about the lack of transparency in the foundation’s increasingly central role in the pandemic.