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EDITORIAL: Gates-funded vaccine facilities could save countless lives

It’s a good thing Sen. Bernie Sanders didn’t succeed in banning billionaires. Bill Gates could be the reason that tens of thousands of people don’t die from coronavirus.

Medical teams around the world are working on a coronavirus vaccine. Everyone is cheering for them to succeed — and the sooner the better. But creating a successful vaccine is only the first step. Once an effective vaccine has been developed, a distribution system must be set up to manufacture and distribute tens of millions of doses. That’s likely to take several additional months. Absent a breakthrough in treating the virus with existing drugs, it’s possible tens of thousands of people will die from coronavirus after researchers have identified a successful vaccine.

Not if Mr. Gates can help it. Earlier this month, he announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will identify the seven most promising vaccines and give billions to build facilities to manufacture them. Individual facilities are necessary, because “many of the top candidates are made using unique equipment,” as Mr. Gates wrote in The Washington Post.

“Even though we’ll end up picking at most two of them, we’re going to fund factories for all seven, just so that we don’t waste time in serially saying, ‘Okay, which vaccine works?’ and then building the factory,” he said earlier this month in an interview with Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show.

Mr. Gates is well aware that the cost of this venture will be enormous.

“It’ll be a few billion dollars we’ll waste on manufacturing for the constructs that don’t get picked,” he said. He contends this expenditure is necessary now because while government funding will be coming, it can’t move as quickly.

“Normal government procurement processes, and understanding which are the right seven, in a few months those may kick in. But our foundation, we can get that bootstrapped and get it going and save months,” he said.

This is an incredible act of generosity. It’s also a reminder of the practical downsides of the confiscatory tax schemes promoted by failed Democratic presidential candidates such as Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. There are plenty of philosophical and constitutional problems with such an approach as well.

The government has more money than Mr. Gates, but money alone isn’t enough. Confronting a problem such as the coronavirus requires specialized expertise and the ability to move quickly. By its nature, government bureaucracies will always struggle with those things.

A hearty thank you to Mr. Gates. We wish him and everyone else involved in the fight against coronavirus much success — and quickly.

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