The end of Pandemic
Billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently said that the coronavirus pandemic may end in many countries by next year. He is optimistic that a coronavirus vaccine will be developed soon and the world at large will see the end of Covid-19 by 2022.
Gates is feeling optimistic that, with all the work being done to develop COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, there is an end to the pandemic in sight.
Unfortunately, that end is still at least a year away, he told Wired’s Steven Levy.
“The innovation pipeline on scaling up diagnostics, on new therapeutics, on vaccines is actually quite impressive. And that makes me feel like, for the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021, and for the world at large by the end of 2022,” Gates said.
Gates says that he fears that in nations like Russia and China, the pressure to have a vaccine is so high that regulators may be allowing shots to be given to humans before the vaccines are known to be safe and effective.
While Gates said that the economic devastation caused due to the pandemic will be hard to reverse, he said the pandemic opened up innovation pipeline on scaling up diagnostics, on new therapeutics and on vaccine research. His comments came during an interview to American magazine Wired.
Gates said the “rich world” should largely be able to end the pandemic by the end of 2021 and the rest of the world see the end of the deadly virus outbreak by the end of 2022.
But the US FDA is not allowing such short-cuts, he said.
“We probably need three or four months — no matter what — of phase 3 data, just to look for side effects,” Gates said. “The FDA, to their credit, at least so far, is sticking to requiring proof of efficacy.”
Gates urged the United States to take a more global approach in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, saying while the nation leads in research, “we’ve only taken care of ourselves” in producing and procuring a vaccine.
Mr Gates said he has encouraged congressional lawmakers to consider adding US$8 billion (S$11 billion) to the economic relief Bill currently being debated that will be devoted to helping less-developed nations procure an eventual vaccine to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“We’re trying to make sure we can end it not just in the rich countries,” Mr Gates said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Tuesday.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged more than US$250 million towards Covid-19 research.
Much of that money has gone towards funding not only research, but also manufacturing capacity that will help a vaccine be distributed globally.
“Those are the ones most scalable and low-cost,” he added.
Around the world, there are well over a hundred vaccines in development, with more than two dozen in human clinical trials.
As it becomes clear that vaccines are the best hope for reining in the pandemic and allowing countries to fully reopen their economies, nations are scrambling to get access to supplies.
Mr Gates joins many others expressing growing concerns over “vaccine nationalism” in which one nation prioritises producing and stockpiling vaccines for itself.
His foundation has invested in an entire portfolio of potential Covid-19 therapies and vaccines, including a vaccine being developed in South Korea.