Contribute Try STAT+ Today

Bill Gates fears a “dysfunctional” approach to distributing Covid-19 vaccines, he said Tuesday, despite an inspiring effort by biopharmaceutical companies to produce promising candidates with high measures of protection.

Developing apparently effective vaccines so quickly — especially exploiting a novel approach that uses mRNA to instruct cells to make viral proteins and trigger an immune response — has been “fantastic,” Gates said in conversation with Rick Berke, STAT’s co-founder and executive editor, during the 2020 STAT Summit. Despite worries about the speed with which companies moved to get there under perceived political pressure, he said “no corners were cut” by companies backed by Operation Warp Speed or by Pfizer, which developed a vaccine with a German partner without U.S. government funding.

But Gates is troubled by the logistics of vaccine distribution, which he said has been left to states to manage without adequate federal guidance to lead the way. At issue: getting vaccine to people who need it the most, tracking their two doses, making sure the vaccine doesn’t expire because of the need to keep it so cold, and following how people are doing in case there are “breakthrough” infections.

advertisement

“I’m worried about vaccine distribution not going to the right people,” he said. “Wow, it is a dysfunctional set of people at the moment.”

Gates said the military’s part in distributing the vaccine is opaque right now. “I wish I understood better what people think the military role is here,” he said. “I don’t, and I don’t find it clearly articulated. Is this being left up to the states to do?”

advertisement

Gates is less concerned about whether people will want to be vaccinated. “There’s always vaccine hesitancy. There’s left-wing vaccine hesitancy, there’s right-wing vaccine hesitancy,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t become like mask-wearing, where one party thinks it’s a sign of surrender or a lack of freedom.”

He said the vaccines likely to reach the market a bit after the initial shots could have advantages. While Pfizer and Moderna have been the first companies to report early, encouraging results in late-stage clinical trials of their mRNA vaccines, Gates said the levels of antibodies elicited are much higher in more conventional vaccines being developed by Novavax and Johnson & Johnson; AstraZeneca’s comes in a little below the mRNA ones. Gates also said the cold-chain requirements and the cost of scaling up mRNA vaccine production “is not as attractive” as the other approaches.

“The fact that Novavax and J&J are above Pfizer makes us very hopeful that in the first quarter [of 2021] those vaccines will get approved and those we can make in many hundreds of millions per month in these developing world factories.”

The Trump administration has fumbled in two other important, damaging ways, said Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, co-founder of Microsoft, and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. First, federal officials missed the mark on diagnostics early in the pandemic and then the White House muffled the public health voices at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that could have delivered information people needed to stem the spread of the virus.

“I really think the CDC was not allowed to do its job. Right now, things are kind of confused, about, are they all just following Scott Atlas’ sort of nihilism or what the hell is going on?” he said about the president’s adviser on Covid-19. “I’m just not seeing what you would want to see for a well-managed rollout. Who’s in charge? Is it Scott Atlas who’s in charge? Because he’s busy attacking other experts.”

In contrast, Gates praised the Covid-19 advisers President-elect Joe Biden has chosen. “He’s appointed a really strong group of people and we’ve worked with many of them, you know, in the global health community. … He’s gonna overdo it on listening to science, which is a wonderful thing.”

Two years ago, long before Covid-19 was on anybody’s radar, Gates said in an interview with STAT that he had urged President Trump to invest in technologies to respond to a pandemic.

“My conversations with Trump were early in his administration, where I said, hey let’s invest in vaccines, both for the pandemic and for HIV and other things that he had a chance to lead on,” Gates recalled Tuesday. “It didn’t go exactly in the direction I’d hoped for.”

Gates said by February of this year, as it became clear the epidemic was going to break out of China and go global, he did not foresee that the U.S., with its resources and knowledge, would be so hard-hit. “Of course at that time, we wouldn’t have thought the U.S. would be the primary country to suffer.”

He said he has been in regular contact with Anthony Fauci, the government’s preeminent infectious disease expert, throughout the epidemic. “Normally, Tony and I, on infectious disease stuff, are very obscure. When we go to a cocktail party, and we’re talking about TB and malaria, people are not like ‘Wow, that’s so interesting, I’m so glad that we’ve got you here,'” Gates joked.

Besides their focus on infectious disease, they also share being the targets of criticism and even conspiracy theories about their work. They both shrug it off, Gates said: “When the president of the United States questioned his scientific credentials or his judgment, I didn’t see any discouragement on his part.”

Gates has been warning for decades of the need for pandemic preparedness. Now that it’s here, he wishes there had been more time to be ready to meet its challenges.

The coronavirus pandemic is “not a world war, but it’s in that league,” he said.

  • In your interview with Bill Gates, he says he met with President Trump early in his administration regarding investing in pandemic vaccines – How do you make a Vaccine for a Virus you don’t even know. No one even knew about Covid-19 way back then. And why is Bill Gates so invested in Pandemics and he actually predicted this back in 2019 – just a few months before the pandemic became known in China. Gates talked about closing down the economy and businesses and how bad it would be. HOW DID HE KNOW ALL THIS??? Who is Bill Gates? And why was he with Jeffery Epstein??? Who is Bill Gates really????

    • Bill Gates is heavily vested in pushing vaccines especially those with technology and tracking devices for humans being like we are cats and animals. He has been on this track even before 2019… videos ho back as far as 2015 talking about this plandemic. They are all in bed together and they stand to profit big time on the heads of the people.

  • So now after the vaccines apparently work the narrative has to turn to how much things will stink anyway, how hard it’ll be, and how much Trump flubbed it. That way when Biden comes in and this rolls out just fine, they can heap credit towards him even though whatever plans are executed will have been formulated under Trump. They’re not even trying to hide the politics now.

  • Actually, he’s a right-wing neoliberal billionaire. How could a billionaire be anything else?!

  • Bill Gates is just another excessively privileged, arrogant elite who thinks accumulating billions on the backs of workers, and through shirking proper taxation, gives him the right to moralize and lord over the plebes . Disgusting.

  • Bill Gates should go to his basement and play with his computer. Stay out an area you have no business being in.

  • The greatest country in the world is the worst Covid-effected country. Everything from protective gear to testing to isolating to citizens loyal to each other’s health has been botched as experts whose advice was not making the president happy got ignored, sidelined and often fired – in a very low way too. This track record constitutes good reason to assume that with no change in that “leadership” the vaccine distribution meets the same fate. So: everyone lay low – until Jan 20th, “only” 2 month away.

    • On what planet do you honestly think Trump or Biden for that matter are drafting plans for distribution? The people that are doing the formulating are career people that will be around after Jan 20.

      You’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that whatever the roll out looks like is going to be attributed to Trump. I’m sure there are many people rooting for it to be horrific because their main goal is playing politics. The rest of us just want this over with.

    • Hey Hank, everyone wants a vaccine, yesterday, no matter who jumps on taking credit. But the outgoing pres is hindering transition for the incoming pres, also for covid spread curb, and he does not care one iota about his citizens. He is golfing, filing lawsuits, spitting on democratic process. Very dysfunctional indeed.

  • Hopefully, we are writing the epitaph for the epidemic, but judging from the news reports, we have not resolved most of the problems which lead to this.
    1. Not long after their shutdowns, and extreme measures to stop the epidemic, China allowed the “wet markets” to reopen – the English language media did not report if certain exotic animals were banned or not.
    It is very likely the crossover from animals to humans occurred because people in China were eating “bat soup” or something similar, but it appears no one is allowed to say this, lest some small number of people might get angry with Chinese people here.
    What does this mean, going forward? Are we simply not allowed to say anything againsst eating exotic animals, because white people do not do it, and therefore it is racist?
    This is not simply a matter of blaming a foreign country for what happened – though, honestly, it does appear to be their fault – an inadequate response in US, or anywhere else, is MORE reason to try to stop them from starting a new epidemic, not less.
    But, instead of legitimate concern with an irresponsible government and dangerous cultural practices being publicized, all we heard from the media in the US was worry someone might be racist – this was never a good reason to suppress the probable history of the epidemic – and the practice of eating bats and pangolins and such remains very dangerous, unless and until every virus they have is identified and countered with anti-virals and vaccines – a mammoth task.
    Why is there a news blackout on this, in the US? Can anyone give a good reason?

    • I tend to agree with you, but the absence of such info is not limited to just the US – it is happening on a large scale. “Political correctness” runs rampant, and silences what rightfully ought to be said. “Western civilization” muzzles important items – while gossip, verbal attacks, mud-slinging etc seems acceptable on wrongly-dubbed “social” media. The western world needs to get a grip in a way that respects guts and decency, and that denounces / deals with gutter-style filth.

  • I and many other American citizens WILL NOT use ANY vaccine that Bill Gates has in any way backed financially or Bill Gates stands to profit from.
    I find Bill Gates a very self absorbed man who considers himself a legend in his own mind. Bill Gates can’t be trusted and any vaccine he backs can’t be trusted.

    As a side note someone needs to educate Bill Gates that the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is a REPUBLIC NOT A DEMOCRACY ! There are major differences in these two forms of Government. Every time I hear someone refer to OUR DEMOCRACY I CRINGE. PLEASE UPDATE Bill Gates.

    • Take a pill and sleep for a week, so you calm down. Gates is a billionaire exception: he is the rare one who funds and supports global vaccinations and health. He deserves credit for his unselfish efforts.

    • You might be wise to start appreciating Gates’ altruistic endeavours, they make a lot of sense. Him and his wife chose to spend vast chunks of their substantial wealth for the health benefit of all. He does not fly by the seat of his pants – he listens to experts, and then he acts in co-operation with providers. He sets an example that other billionaires should follow – including the clown who can’t admit defeat.

    • What concerns me about bill gates unlike say Jeff Bezos is he fancies himself some kind of thought leader on global affairs. Speak to the guy with expertise in rapid response, building malleable distribution networks, market competition failures and successes in organising such a large scale project on long supply chains towards humans-not this dude man. This guy has no clue that’s why he’s always yapping. “Oh our foundation” no one cares about your foundation. Do you have a vaccine or not?lol. Jeez man.

  • Some people may panic wanting the vaccine badly while others will say no way are they getting that devil medicine inside their body.

    • I am appalled at the horrible and devisive
      comments that are made against Bill Gates. He is a Saint and on that final Judgement Day when we all stand before God, I am certain he will be Proclaimed as a good and faithful servant. And he will be one who will say what did I do? And God will say, when I was hungry you fed me when I was destitute without a home or clothing you sheltered me and cloth me. When I was in pain and illness you helped me get well. And Mr. Gates will say, When were you destitute and homeless and hungry and without clothing and sick? When you helped the least of these of my children you were doing it for me!

      Bill Gates is truly a humble servant and a man of God even if he doesn’t know it. And God blesses him and has blessed him greatly for his love of God’s children.

    • Rodney…finally a true Christian. Couldn’t agree more. Bill Gates is a wonderful man and has given his fortune to help others..Where are you true Christians hiding? You must be mortified by these vapid creatures hi jacking your religion and calling themselves followers of Jesus.

    • CJ & Rodney –
      Maybe you should research Bill Gates involvement in Africa during the sterilization program under the guise of tetanus prevention, that he initiated along with the WHO, before you cast him in your vote for sainthood.
      And BTW, it was the Kenya CATHOLIC Doctors Association that investigated the atrocities & turned him in, because they know right from wrong … no matter how much money he has.
      A lesson few are versed in.

Comments are closed.

Your daily dose of news in health and medicine

Privacy Policy