Bill Gates: who will get a coronavirus vaccine first

Bill Gates, Melinda Gates

Bill Gates, the billionaire co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, is optimistic about three companies researching a vaccine to inoculate people from the coronavirus which has officially killed almost 479,000 globally.

Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, spoke at the ninth annual Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy, which was held virtually for the first time.

Bill Gates was pleased by the initial results from coronavirus vaccine candidates made by Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson but felt the real test would be in the manufacturing and distribution of the eventual vaccine or vaccines.

coronavirus, vaccine, laboratory

Globally more than 10 billion doses are required to vaccinate 80% of the population (the estimate needed to achieve herd immunity) with a two-dose vaccine. Bill Gates estimated that it’s possible within two years if both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s candidates are successful, Forbes reported.

How the vaccine is distributed, and to whom, needs to be coordinated.

“One of the reasons we are so involved in this is that you don’t want the first vaccines to go to the highest-bidding countries,” Melinda Gates said.

“There are 60 million healthcare workers (worldwide). They deserve to get the vaccine first, they’re the ones dealing with this on the front lines, trying to keep us all safe. And then you have to start to tier from there, based on the countries and the populations. Here in the United States, it’s going to be black people who really should get it first and many indigenous people, as well as people with underlying symptoms, and then elderly people.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged more than US$350 million to fight the coronavirus. The foundation intends to use The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was founded by Bill and Melinda Gates, Kofi Annan, Jeffrey Sachs and Amir Attaran. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also a founding partner of the Gavi and the Vaccine Alliance, which distributes therapeutics and vaccines to developing countries fairly. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged an additional US$1.6 billion earlier this month to help fund Gavi for the next five years.

Bill and Melinda Gates were critical of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the US – 20% of all coronavirus cases were in the US on Monday – and were upset about US President Donald Trump’s decision to stop funding the United Nations’ agency, the World Health Organization (WHO).

“It is not perfect, it’s not even close to perfect, but it is what the world set up after World War II to deal with things like this pandemic,” Melinda Gates said of WHO.

She said that when Ebola broke out in East Africa and made its way to Lagos, Nigeria, one of the most populous cities in the world, WHO converted polio clinics into emergency response clinics and began contact tracing and quarantining. Ebola did not reach the US.

“The world got lucky on Ebola,” said Melinda Gates, who added that diseases such as measles were more infectious than coronavirus.

“There are other haemorrhagic fevers out there. If we don’t have a functioning WHO, we’re not going to see an immediate response like that.”

Bill Gates said it was imperative that people in the US wear masks covering their mouth and nose.

“A mask is not that expensive, it’s not that ugly,” Bill Gates said.

“The elevator pitch is: test, contact trace, isolate and quarantine, and wear a mask, and role-model wearing a mask. Every single person should be wearing a mask, without an exception,” Melinda Gates added.

Bill Gates was shocked by Trump’s response to the coronavirus.

“Usually the United States plays a role in global problem-solving, so rather than withdrawing from WHO, they’d be involved, collaborating with other countries, not just trying to cast blame. It’s a tricky situation, where the US sort of turned inward on this one,” he said.

“We’re trying to stitch different country efforts together. The European leaders are trying to fill that vacuum. (US inaction) erodes the kind of relationship and admiration and self-confidence that people have had in us as a country,” added Bill Gates.

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