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Melinda Gates sees US donating COVID vaccine doses soon

But philanthropist remains cool to the idea of waiving intellectual property rights

Melinda and Bill Gates announced Monday that they are divorcing after 27 years.   © Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) -- Melinda Gates, co-founder of one of the world's largest private charitable foundations, expects the U.S. government to soon weigh up how much of its vaccine supply to donate bilaterally and through the global COVAX program.

In her first remarks to be broadcast since she and her husband, Microsoft Corp co-founder Bill Gates, announced they would divorce after 27 years, Gates said governments were waking up to arguments that the global economy needs to be vaccinated to bring the pandemic under control.

"I think the U.S. government is looking at their supply of vaccine and deciding, okay how much should we do through COVAX, how much should we do bilaterally, so I think you're going to start to see some movement there," Gates said in an interview with the Financial Times recorded before the divorce announcement.

Wealthy nations did not need to vaccinate down to their teen populations before they started sharing doses with low-income countries, Gates said, and suggested governments should pick an age range, somewhere between 20 and 30, when they would start donating vaccines.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has become one of the most powerful and influential forces in global public health, and last year committed about $1.75 billion to COVID-19 relief.

The 56-year-old Texas-raised computer scientist, who met Bill Gates, 65, at a company dinner in New York, will continue to run the foundation with him.

Gates was cool on the idea of waiving intellectual property rights to help increase vaccine supply, saying it made more sense to incentivise pharmaceutical companies to carry out technology transfers.

"The piece that is not working today is the manufacturing," she said. "We don't have enough raw materials, we don't have enough manufacturing in the right places, so it is allowing the nations that have manufacturing in place to hoard their vaccines, so we got to fix that piece."

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