Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2020. 4:23 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Co-founder of Microsoft and philanthropist Bill Gates is making the case for a better 2021 than the “devastating” 2020.
In an end-of-year statement on his website, Gates, who with wife Melinda has been leading the charge to find vaccines and other solutions to COVID-19, expects that after a short-term surge in cases and deaths and even with the specter of the relatively new strain popping up in Great Britain and elsewhere, cases and deaths will start going down in the wealthiest countries as vaccination takes hold.
Gates admits to being “stunned” at the extra-fast pace humanity has made in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, which normally takes a full decade. As of this writing, at least four vaccines are in circulation and others are advancing toward such.
Gates believes that the successes of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines “bodes well for many of the other candidates. Virtually all of the vaccines now undergoing efficacy studies attack the same part of the novel coronavirus as the first two do. (It’s the protein that spikes out of the virus, giving the coronavirus its crown-like shape as well as its name.) Now that researchers know attacking that particular protein can work, they have reason to be optimistic about other vaccines that do the same thing.”
A lengthy explanation of the similarities and differences follows, the gist of which is that this type (mRNA) of technology is easier to create.
Gates points out that between 5 to 10 billion doses of vaccines must be created, depending on the type of vaccine and assuming at least 70 percent of the global population must be inoculated. (on average, fewer than 6 billion doses of all vaccines are produced yearly). The Gates Foundation put together “second-source agreements” – pairing companies from richer countries with counterparts in developing ones to produce safe, high quality, affordable doses, fast.
On distribution, an alliance of pharmaceutical companies, governments and others stand ready to ensure in-country distribution on an unprecedented scale.
And as for those worried, they will be somehow implanted with a mind-altering chip at the hands of the Gateses, Bill assures: “…the sole reason we fund vaccines [is] because we’re passionate about saving lives and making sure all children have a chance to grow into adulthood. We feel a responsibility to give our wealth back to society, and we believe that no outlet for our giving returns more value to the world than helping develop and distribute vaccines. They are a medical miracle that made it possible to cut the childhood death rate in half in the past two decades.”
Gates went on to discuss treatments for and testing for COVID-19, taking some credit for the discovery of dexamethasone as a treatment for severe cases and the use of monoclonal antibodies to treat patients as well as refining testing so that a large swab to the back of the nose is no longer necessary. He also spoke of “disease surveillance” – what allows public health experts to estimate the number of cases in a location and the rate at which new infections are occurring. Armed with this information, government leaders can make informed decisions about the best ways to stop the virus from spreading.
Gates held the relative success of low-income countries, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, in keeping cases and deaths to a minimum except for South Africa. However, he points out, there has been a “ripple effect” with other plagues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and others, and those with potentially worrying conditions have been avoiding the doctor altogether.
Gates trusts that the same way the world has largely come together to fight COVID-19 will extend to another concern of his: climate change. Ahead of next year’s UN summit in Glasgow, Scotland, he will release a book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, in which I share what I’ve learned from 15 years of studying the problem and investing in solutions for it. I hope the book will help drive the conversation in a productive direction. He also looks forward to the U.S. under Joe Biden resuming a leading role developing and deploying the clean-energy innovations needed to eliminate greenhouse gases.
Gates concludes: “A year from now, I do think we’ll be able to look back and say that 2021 was an improvement on 2020. The improvement may not be enormous, but it will be a noticeable, measurable step forward for people around the world.”
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