Bill Gates optimistic about COVID vaccine science, worried about ‘dysfunctional’ U.S. distribution

Bill Gates at the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2020 annual meeting in Seattle in February. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Bill Gates expressed optimism about the potential effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, pointing to evidence from Pfizer’s trial suggesting that only a “modest level of antibodies” will be required to protect people from contracting the virus.

However, in a virtual appearance at the STAT Summit conference on Tuesday, he expressed dismay over what he characterized lack of coordinated planning and forethought going into distributing the vaccine under the Trump administration.

“It’s so cacophonous,” Gates said. “It could work out in a decent way. It doesn’t appear that it is. It appears that what we did on diagnostics, we’re rerunning that playbook, of everybody sees a little piece of it. So I’m worried about vaccine distribution, not going to the right people, and not going full speed.

He added, “You can even have vaccine expiration, because of the way that the cold chain works on these things. … I can’t predict the numbers. But wow, it is a dysfunctional set of people right at the moment.”

Gates made the comments in response to a question from Rick Berke, co-founder and executive editor of the STAT health and life sciences news site, about the impact of the delayed U.S. presidential transition on the fight against COVID-19. His comments coincide with a rising wave of COVID-19 infections across the country.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $400 million in grants to COVID-19 initiatives, including an additional $70 million last week for global vaccine distribution.

The foundation has “tried to engage the current administration as much as possible,” Gates said, including a suggestion for the Centers for Disease Control to offer a website for people who want to get the vaccine, and an idea for a digital certificate for at-risk workers to verify to others that they’ve received the vaccine.

Appearing at the event earlier in the day, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, conceded that perhaps he should have been “much more vocal” in pushing for more aggressive testing across the U.S. earlier in the outbreak.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *