Here is something we do have data about: Women are healthier, her children are healthier and better educated, and the family is wealthier when a woman can space the births of her children. And so it’s one of those things that you have to look at all the time. And particularly during a time of crisis, teen pregnancy rates go up, maternal mortality goes up. So we have to make sure we keep this front and center on the agenda.
When it comes to vaccine development, how do you get global leaders to work together and not be individualistic?
We’re seeing unprecedented cooperation. People are working so rapidly and sharing results, sharing Phase 1 findings as soon as they get them, trying to align manufacturing, even before we know which vaccine is going to go through. The biggest concern though, is that the vaccine not go to the highest bidder when it comes out. It is fundamental that the vaccine goes first to the 60 million health care workers around the globe who are keeping the rest of us safe. They deserve this vaccine first, and I don’t care where you live. And after that, then the most vulnerable populations deserve to get the vaccine.
Philanthropy is absolutely playing a role in these conversations.
Speaking of philanthropy, in moments of crisis, we usually turn to foundations like yours for moonshots. What can the Gates Foundation do and what are its limits?
All a foundation or philanthropy can do is be that catalytic wedge, to show ways and points of light. The moonshots are coming from the pharmaceutical companies; we can invest alongside of them, and we can incent them, just like government can incent them, to build out more manufacturing plants earlier, not just for high-income countries but middle- and low-income. We can be a catalyst or a prod to make sure the right things happen.
The world has been dealt the most terrible hand, but I want to ask you what “moments of lift” — to borrow your own phrasing — you can see emerging from this.
The moment of lift is that time when, if you’re looking at a rocket leaving the earth and it’s going to catapult into space, the engines are lit, they’re rumbling, they’re ready to go. And then you lift off against gravity and you head off to the moon. When we give women this small lift in society, they will walk to new places.