The idea that Bill Gates is somehow the driving force behind the WHO’s vaccine-centric COVID-19 response is very widespread—at least on Twitter. But this notion recently received some unexpected support from a mainstream media source: Politico, the online news service that was started in D.C. in the naughts, launched a Brussels-based European edition in partnership with the German media giant Springer in 2015, and was fully acquired by the German firm last year.
As can be seen, Germany was far and away the top contributor. Its $425 million contribution represented more than 30 percent of the total $1.34 billion effective budget. To put this in perspective, Germany’s 80 million inhabitants represent around 1 percent of the world’s total population. The European Commission, under the leadership of former German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen, was the 3rd largest contributor, providing $81 million. Germany and the German-dominated EU together thus provided $506 million or over 36 percent of the C-19 response budget in 2020.
And where was Bill Gates? Or, more exactly, where was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is indeed a major contributor to the WHO in other areas? The below graph shows us: in 18th place in the funding hierarchy, two places behind Yemen.
The Gates Foundation’s effective contribution of $14.5 million represented around 1 percent of the total budget. Germany provided around 30 times more funding. The GAVI alliance, to which we will come momentarily, is even further down the list (30th place at just over $7 million).
The next graph shows the leading contributors to the WHO’s COVID-19 response budget in 2021, the second year of the pandemic and the first of mass vaccination. The story is much the same. Germany is still far and away the top contributor, and its percentage share of the total budget is now even greater.
The Gates Foundation’s effective contribution of $6 million represents barely 0.5 percent of the total budget! Germany’s contribution—$386 million to $6 million—is now no less than 64 times greater!
But wait a moment. Careful observers will have noted the relatively prominent presence of GAVI, now in 5th place with an effective contribution of $67 million, among the leading contributors in 2021, and GAVI continues to be a major contributor in 2022. So, even if Germany is by far the top contributor and even if the Gates Foundation’s contribution is paltry, Gates involvement is still substantial: namely, via GAVI. The Springer/Politico “investigation” includes GAVI among Gates’s “network” of organizations, after all, and for all intents and purposes, Gates is GAVI. Right?
So, it is obviously bogus to add together Gates Foundation funding and GAVI funding and treat the sum as Gates’s overall contribution, as many proponents of the “Gates-owns-the-WHO” theory tend to do.
“Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the Gates Foundation, GAVI, and the Wellcome Trust have donated collectively more than $1.4 billion to the WHO—a significantly greater amount than most other official member states, including the United States and the European Commission, according to data provided by the WHO.”This may well be true if we include the current funding year. But how is it relevant given that the main funders of GAVI are precisely those same WHO member states? (I will leave aside the fact that the European Commission is not, of course, a WHO member state. Its contributions, like those of the Gates Foundation, are entirely voluntary.)
Here, in case it is of interest, are the WHO’s top 5 funders for the 2020–21 period as presented on the WHO website.
As documented above, the Gates Foundation’s actual contributions to the WHO’s COVID-19 response budget are relatively minor. Including this year’s pledge, they come to a total of around $21 million. Not $1.1 billion!
By contrast, over 70 percent of Germany’s $1.15 billion contribution went to the COVID-19 response (namely, $811 million, as documented above). And if we subtract Germany’s $58 million in assessed contributions from its total contribution, this figure rises to nearly 75 percent.
Politico’s would-be exposé of Gates funding cites one Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University, who notes, “I think we should be deeply concerned. Putting it in a very crass way, money buys influence.” Perhaps so. But why should this be any less the case of German money?
Of course, if the money consisted only of assessed contributions, which the country pays as a condition of membership in the organization, then it would indeed be less the case or even not at all. But the German funding obviously did not only consist of assessed contributions. As just noted, Germany’s assessed contributions for the 2020–21 funding period merely came to $58 million. This is to say that 95 percent of the German funding was every bit as voluntary as the Gates funding.
It is also notable that none of Germany’s voluntary contributions are “core” contributions: i.e., contributions to the WHO’s general budget, which the organization can use as it sees fit. They are all earmarked.
Knowing this, why should it be assumed that voluntary contributions from private sources, even private charitable sources, are somehow interested, whereas contributions from governments are disinterested?
In light of the funding figures cited above, the obvious question is: Why in fact did Germany suddenly become the top contributor to the WHO with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and why has it been by far the top contributor to the organization’s COVID-19 response budget? Was it merely to save the world? What interest could Germany possibly have had in the COVID-19 response?
In 2021, BioNTech’s revenues went from roughly zero to $19 billion, making the company a major driver of German growth. BioNTech earned over $15 billion in profits on those $19 billion in revenues, giving the company a whopping pre-tax profit margin of nearly 80 percent! BioNTech paid nearly one third of those profits in corporate tax, thus, in effect, making the German federal government and the city of Mainz (where the company pays local taxes) the main stakeholders in the company.
These are the kinds of conflicts of interest that would make a private contributor blush. But as a WHO member state, Germany continued to play a leading role in shaping the WHO’s COVID response in venues from which private contributors, like the Gates Foundation, are excluded.
Lothar Wieler is undoubtedly the single German official most closely connected to Germany’s own COVID-19 response. To get an idea of the significance of Wieler chairing this key WHO committee—while still very much occupying his key position in the German government!—one need only imagine, say, Anthony Fauci chairing the same committee while still serving as director of NIAID.
Germany’s massively preponderant role in funding the WHO’s COVID-19 response might also help to explain some major, and often otherwise puzzling, decisions of the organization: like, for instance, the decision, in January 2020, to quickly adopt the notoriously oversensitive PCR protocol devised by German virologist Christian Drosten as the gold standard for detecting COVID-19 infection—thus, in effect, ensuring that the illness would obtain pandemic status.