Speaking to CNN Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta at Coronavirus City Hall, Gates said the fact that people are still dying in the U.S. today shows the country is “not even close” to doing enough to fight the pandemic.
“It is possible to increase testing for a new pathogen very quickly,” he said.
“In fact, some countries have done extremely well in this case, and the technology is still improving there. The Americas in particular have not had the leadership messages or coordination you would expect.”
Gates attributed the increase in numbers to a lack of testing and contact tracking, as well as a lack of wearing masks. He said other countries that have done so have effectively noticed that the number is declining.
“The range of behavior in the U.S. right now, some people are very conservative in what they do, and some people ignore the epidemic is huge,” Gates said.
“Some almost feel like it’s a political thing that’s unfortunate,” he added, something he says he didn’t expect in America.
The governor of North Dakota, a friend of mine, had to say, “Please don’t be mean to people wearing masks,” which somehow lets go.
Gates rejected the White House’s claim that the increase in the number of cases was a direct result of the increase in interrogations, calling it “completely false.”
He also expressed disappointment with what he called the lack of US leadership to fight the virus globally, which has led developing countries – such as Brazil and India – to bear the brunt of the disease.
However, he said he hoped the U.S. would “boost” and help tools, especially vaccines, be developed by everyone in the world.
Gates said the time frame is in line with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the best infectious disease expert in the country, by predicting that there will be a sustainable vaccine by the end of the year or early 2021. He said he and Fauci are in constant contact.
During City Hall, Gates explained how two characteristics are assessed in vaccine development. First, that the vaccine prevents you from getting sick and second, that it prevents you from spreading it to others.
On the latter, he warned that “it is not guaranteed that the vaccine will be a perfect transmission blocker”.
Despite this, Gates said recent evidence suggests that the antibody response is “very strong,” suggesting about a year of immunity for anyone who gets the disease.
In his opinion, the biggest obstacle will not be the development or distribution of the vaccine – it will be ensuring that people take it.
Due to the urgent need for this vaccine, the time for scientists to test it on different age groups and pregnant women will be reduced, he explained.
“The challenge is to get that security database to build trust,” he said.
Finally, Gates said he thinks most people will take it.
“If it’s a great vaccine, including blocking transmission, everyone will benefit from the fact that 70 to 80% of people will take the vaccine,” he said. “We should be able to get herd immunity if you climb that level, so it could really – really exponentially – lower the numbers.”
However, he warned that the whole world will need to reach that level before people return on holiday abroad, as well as safely welcome international students and sporting events.
Asked if society would accept the virus as a way of life – as it had accepted mass shootings – Gates said he hoped it would not.
“It’s pretty serious. I hope the media continues to remind people of the tragedy that is represented here,” he said, stressing the inequality of the disease towards the elderly, minorities and health workers.
“Now if you’re in a nursing home because they’re so worried, you’re actually living almost in prison conditions,” he said.
He said older people are right to worry about getting this and maybe dying.
“This is more than the children who died in Vietnam and it was a great national tragedy,” he said. “We didn’t ignore it … this is bigger than that.”