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General News of Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Factcheck: Did Akufo-Addo sign a COVID-19 vaccine pact with Bill Gates?

Claim

Social media commentary emerging on May 22, 2020 claimed that president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo "had signed a COVID-19 vaccine pact with billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates."

According to the commentary, the president "had, through the pact, committed Ghana to a mandatory vaccination programme for COVID-19."

But checks by GhanaWeb indicate that the claim was completely FALSE and that no such pact had been signed by the President with any entity for a vaccine for COVID-19.

Explanation

At the present, there is yet to be a proven vaccine to cure COVID-19 globally, with the World Health Organisation having announced the commencement of some human trails towards the search for a vaccine.

Currently, Ghana, like other countries of the world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, has opted for supportive treatment to manage infected patients.

Since the pandemic occurred, there had been conspiracy theories that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a major funder of the World Health Organization (WHO) were planning to use a future COVID-19 vaccine to implant microchips in a bid to depopulate the African continent.

These unfounded theories came up as a result of the billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates’ push for a search towards a vaccine.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation however in January this year, announced that it was contributing US$10 million towards the fight to contain the outbreak.

Of that total, the foundation gave US$5 million to support the response in China, while the other US$5 million went to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention for screening and crisis preparedness.

“The money will be spent on emergency funds and corresponding technical support to help frontline responders in China and Africa accelerate their efforts to contain the global spread of 2019-nCoV,” the foundation said in a press release.

GhanaWeb.com further discovered that the claim that President Akufo-Addo "had signed a vaccine pact with Bill Gates for COVID-19" was based on a tweet sent out by the president, via his official twitter handle, @NAkufoAddo on May 15, 2020.

“Together with other global leaders, I signed the @UNAIDS Public Letter on a People’s Vaccine for # COVID19. It is important that all people everywhere must have access to the vaccine when one becomes available. It must be the #PeoplesVaccine,” the tweet read.




Verification

To verify the claim, we visited the UNAIDS official website to get details about the said letter [described as a pact by the claimants] and find out if it was in any way connected to Bill Gates and was associated with a mandatory vaccination programme.

A blog post on the UNAIDS website clarified that the People’s Vaccine against COVID-19 was only an open letter signed by over 140 world leaders including current and former president and experts.

According to the UNAIDS, the pact only demands all governments of the world to ensure that whenever any effective vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is developed, it should be patent-free, mass-produced, distributed fairly and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge.

The Executive Director for UNAIDS, Winnie Byanyima, in a video message said that “Epidemics affect everyone but they do not affect everyone equally. To fight COVID we have to fight inequality because pandemics feed on and widen inequalities…Together, we want all leaders to guarantee that when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people in all countries free of charge. The same applies for all treatments, tests and other technologies. No one should be sent to the back of the COVID queue because of the colour of their skin or the money in their pockets.”

Byanyima also defended the calls for a People’s Vaccine, citing the instance of African countries unable to purchase COVID-19 test kits and PPEs from the open markets because rich countries bought them in huge quantities and stocked up for themselves.

Conclusion

There are currently over 100 candidate vaccines to cure COVID-19 under various stages of development with French drug manufacture, Eli Lilly and Co starting an early-stage trial to test its potential treatment for COVID-19.

Lilly is one of the several drug makers and research institutions that are working on vaccines, antivirals and other treatments to help those infected with the fast-spreading novel coronavirus, which has already killed over 370,000 worldwide.

An antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences called remdesivir has shown some promise against COVID-19 and is being given to patients by some countries under compassionate or emergency use rule.

Additionally, to the extent that the ‘People’s Vaccine’ letter signed by global leaders does not put citizens of any of the countries like Ghana who have also signed on, under any agreement to be mandatorily placed under a vaccine testing programme.

Per the Ghanaian laws which also does not warrant any citizen to be placed on a compulsory vaccination programme for COVID-19, claims that the President Akufo-Addo had opted for such a measure are completely FALSE and must be DISREGARDED.

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