In a Jan. 2023 AMA "Ask Me Anything" post on Reddit by Bill Gates, a user, Sherm199, stated that:

The Gates foundation fought for the Oxford vaccine to NOT be open-source and to instead be sold for profit. I'm sure they don't mind.

Edit:Adding the source I read this news from: https://khn.org/news/rather-than-give-away-its-covid-vaccine-oxford-makes-a-deal-with-drugmaker

The above article also ran on Fortune: Oxford’s COVID vaccine deal with AstraZeneca raises concerns about access and pricing. Quoting relevant parts of the article:

Oxford University surprised and pleased advocates of overhauling the vaccine business in April by promising to donate the rights to its promising coronavirus vaccine to any drugmaker.

The idea was to provide medicines preventing or treating COVID-19 at a low cost or free of charge, the British university said. That made sense to people seeking change. The coronavirus was raging. Many agreed that traditional vaccine development, characterized by long lead times, manufacturing monopolies and weak investment, was broken.

“We actually thought they were going to do that,” James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that works to expand access to medical technology, said of Oxford’s pledge. “Why wouldn’t people agree to let everyone have access to the best vaccines possible?”

A few weeks later, Oxford—urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—reversed course. It signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices—with the less-publicized potential for Oxford to eventually make millions from the deal and win plenty of prestige.

Oxford backed off from its open-license pledge after the Gates Foundation urged it to find a big-company partner to get its vaccine to market.

“We went to Oxford and said, Hey, you’re doing brilliant work,” Bill Gates told reporters on June 3, a transcript shows. “But … you really need to team up.” The comments were first reported by Bloomberg.

AstraZeneca, one of the U.K.’s two major pharma companies, may have demanded an exclusive license in return for doing a deal, said Ken Shadlen, a professor at the London School of Economics and an authority on pharma patents—a theory supported by comments from CEO Soriot.

“I think IP [intellectual property, or exclusive patents] is a fundamental part of our industry and if you don’t protect IP, then essentially there is no incentive for anybody to innovate,” Soriot told the newspaper The Telegraph in May.

Some see the Gates Foundation, a heavy funder of Gavi, CEPI and many other vaccine projects, as supporting traditional patent rights for pharma companies.

BIll Gates (user name: thisisbillgates) responded to Sherm199's comment with:

This is not correct. Even though neither I or the Foundation were involved in the license from Oxford to Astra-Zeneca, Astra-Zeneca did a strong job offering their help to any vaccine manufacturer who could make it. A great example is Serum who the Foundation funded and made over 2B vaccines which saved millions of lives.

Sherm199 replied back with:

Reports are that "Oxford changed course [on open sourcing the vaccine] at the urging of Bill and Melinda Gates".

You also, on record said that "We went to Oxford and said, Hey, you’re doing brilliant work,” Bill Gates told reporters on June 3, a transcript shows. “But … you really need to team up.”

Can you explain what these means, if it's not you using your influence to stop Oxford from releasing the patent for their vaccine open source? https://khn.org/news/rather-than-give-away-its-covid-vaccine-oxford-makes-a-deal-with-drugmaker/

Note that, as per Sherm199’s comment, Bill Gates' reply above was prior to when the initial comment was edited to include the source:

I added the source AFTER he responded (check the edit timestamp). The source was directly refuting his claim that this didn't happen, as there's sources and quotes that say it did.

To be clear, when he responded, I hadn't linked that source.

How accurate is the allegation that Oxford’s vaccine was made proprietary, not open-source, due to Bill Gates’ influence via the Gates Foundation?

  • 2
    This seems like a difference of interpretation, not facts. There are two distinct events: 1) Bill Gates persuading them to find a partner; and 2) the partner they found persuading them not to "open source" the vaccine. That leaves us with a) was 2 a direct consequence of 1, and b) was 2 the expectation or intention of 1, in other words did Bill Gates intentionally steer them away from open source, or just towards commercial partnerships in general.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 8:43
  • 1
    @IMSoP: I suspect your intepretation is right, with the caveat that Gates' intentions are offtopic here.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 11:23
  • 4
    @Oddthinking Hence why I posted the comment. Possibly rather than the slightly fluffy "how accurate is it?" the question needs to be focussed onto some particular fact that's in dispute, e.g. "Did Bill Gates encourage Oxford University to seek a commercial partner for their vaccine?" But then the sources already given seem to be as good an answer as is likely.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 11:29
  • 1
    One could also note that from context 'team up' almost surely means 'team up with a major commercial drug manufactor' (and all of these are private and profit oriented) because no one else has the knowledge and capacity to manufacture a vaccine in the quantities needed. Whether this implies 'and give them an exclusive patent' is another question though.
    – quarague
    Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 7:06
  • 2
    Financial Times behind paywall ft.com/content/e359159b-105c-407e-b1be-0c7a1ddb654b Bill Gates, the foundation’s co-chair, said in an interview with the FT: “We told Oxford: ‘Hey, you don’t have the full skill set. Here’s a list of people you need to consider to partner with.’ And AstraZeneca jumped in. They’ve done a great job.”
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Oct 13, 2023 at 15:35


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