Rich nations could become close to normal by late 2021 if effective Covid-19 vaccine is ready: Bill Gates

He said the US should be thinking about which voices will help reduce the hesitancy regarding a coronavirus vaccine

                            Rich nations could become close to normal by late 2021 if effective Covid-19 vaccine is ready: Bill Gates
(Getty Images)

Rich nations could be close to normal by late 2021 if a coronavirus vaccine is ready soon if it works and is distributed widely, according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates. In an interview during The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit, Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, cautioned that it is not yet known whether the vaccine candidates currently undergoing clinical trials will succeed.

“We have 6 vaccines that have gotten strong R&D funding from a combination of the US and a group that our Foundation is involved with. The phase 3 data will begin between now and the end of the year. We still don’t know whether these vaccines will succeed. The primary endpoint has to do with avoiding infection plus symptoms...So (by the) end of the year possibly, but two or three, we rate have a pretty high chance will be approved next year. Now the capacity will take time to ramp up. And so the allocation within the US, and between the US and other countries will be a very top point of contention,” Gates told the Wall Street Journal. He added. “If you were going for an elimination where we don’t have any more transmission, that will take two to three years. In the rich countries, however, if you really in the first months of next year have the vaccines and they’re fairly effective at transmission blocking, then by late next year you could have things going back pretty close to normal, that’s the best case.”

While saying that he stands behind the FDA in trusting the safety of a vaccine approved or authorized by them, Gates said that the agency “did embarrass itself pretty badly with the plasma announcement,” where they made claims that were just completely wrong. They put a “lot of praise of political figures into it,” so they have not been as strong as you would expect, he explained. Gates, however, added, “With the vaccine and the idea of the expert panel and the professional team, I do think this is the gold standard that both the US and the world will look to before you want to give the vaccine out to millions of people.”

If the data on the safety and efficacy of vaccines are clear, Gates said, “I think enough people will be interested and then you’ll build up that confidence as more and more people are taking the vaccine and getting good results.”

Gates emphasized that if the data on the safety and efficacy of coronavirus vaccines are clear, he believes enough people will be interested in getting vaccinated. (Getty Images)

Gates emphasized that the US should be thinking of ways to reduce hesitancy about having a Covid-19 vaccine when one is ready. “You know, here in the US, we should already be thinking about which voices will help reduce the hesitancy. And so we can get a level of vaccination that really has a chance of stopping (it). Sadly, face masks and even vaccines are more politicized here (in the US) than in other countries...The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that normally speaks out on these things hasn’t yet had that much visibility,” he said. 

Asked who did best at achieving an appropriate balance in managing the health and economic needs of Covid-19, Gates named South Korea and Australia. “Because this is an exponential event, a little bit of intelligence early on makes a huge difference,” he added.

When asked if he has any insight into the Russian or Chinese vaccine efforts, Gates said that the Western companies were further ahead on phase 3 studies. “We’re also talking with Russia and China. None of their vaccines are in a phase 3 trial with a highly regarded regulator overseeing that trial.” 

“From a scientific point of view, the one Russian construct and six of the Chinese constructs are perfectly valid constructs, actually with some similarities to what the Western companies are doing. But the Western companies are further ahead on doing these phase 3 studies. So if those come out well and they’re offered at low cost, I doubt there'll be a lot of Russian or Chinese vaccines going outside of those countries,” Gates suggested. 

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