- Bill Gates predicts that “almost all” coronavirus vaccines will work by February, adding to the list candidates that have yet to produce Phase 3 conclusions, including Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.
- The Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/Oxford have shown efficacy of up to 95%, and more vaccines will also be effective against COVID-19, medical experts believe.
The novel coronavirus vaccine race has already yielded three winners. Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca/Oxford are the three vaccine candidates tested in the US, Europe, and other western regions that have produced impressive Phase 3 results. All three of them will likely get emergency approvals in the coming weeks and months. That’s a much better outcome than many health experts expected, even in the best case scenario.
There was always a cautious optimism when it came to these vaccines. They proved their worth in the early trial phases, but there was no guarantee that they would complete Phase 3 successfully. There was always a risk that any or all of them would fail. Now that the three experimental drugs have shown they can prevent severe COVID-19 illness with an efficacy of up to 95%, Bill Gates has one of the best coronavirus vaccine predictions so far. He said in an interview that “almost all” of the coronavirus vaccines will work by February. That’s a stark departure from his initial estimates months ago that only a few of the vaccine frontrunners would prove to be successful.
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Gates has been deeply involved in the monitoring and management of COVID-19 through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that worked closely with some vaccine makers to advance the development of these drugs. The former Microsoft boss said numerous times in early April that it’s a good idea to invest billions in various coronavirus vaccine technologies and supply chains, knowing that just one or two of them might eventually work.
“Even though we’ll end up picking at most two of them, we’re going to fund factories for all seven just so we don’t waste time in serially saying ‘ok which vaccine works’ and then building the factory,” he told Trevor Noah back in April.
But the actual progress of these three vaccines convinced Gates that more drugs would be effective. “Almost all the vaccines will work and with very high efficacy levels,” Gates told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “I’m optimistic that by February, it’s very likely that they’ll all prove very efficacious and safe.”
Gates referred to drugs from Johson & Johnson and Novavax, which are also in the final stages of testing and could produce results soon. “The next few approvals, AstraZeneca, Novavax Johnson & Johnson, will be critical to get to very big numbers,” Gates said.
Gates isn’t the only person to have shown optimism about vaccines. In recent interviews, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he believed other vaccines would work now that Pfizer and Moderna have shown impressive results. That’s because most vaccines target the spike protein of the virus to block it from infecting cells. And if Pfizer and Moderna were able to induce that desired immune response, other drugs that teach the immune system to develop neutralizing antibodies for the spike should also be effective.
Hundreds of COVID-19 vaccine ideas have been registered this year, and other experimental drugs are still in development. In addition to the BioNTech, Moderna, and Oxford drug, Russia and China also have a few leading vaccines that are already used on the general population. Russia’s is the most controversial one, while China has a few vaccine candidates that have proven their ability to induce an immune response in Phase 1/2 trials so far. Europe already inked vaccine deals with a host of companies, including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi-GSK, AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BionNTech, and CureVac.
Gates also noted that the logistics will get solved “in a slightly imperfect way,” for vaccines, acknowledging that the US isn’t doing enough to inform Americans about their place in the queue and access to vaccines. “Over time, we will get to that 70 percent-plus level that we need in order to stop the spread of the disease,” he said.
While vaccine news has been impressive lately, Gates also warned that the pandemic will continue to extract its toll in the coming months. “We should be very worried about the next six months,” the former Microsoft executive said. He added that the daily death rate will top 2,000 for much of the winter.
He advised people not to expose their family members to COVID-19 until vaccines are available. “Try not to have your family be the last death in this pandemic because you’re willing to see it through until the spring, which is when the vaccine will really start to cut the numbers down,” he said. Gates revealed that his Thanksgiving dinner will be smaller in scope than in previous years, and he’ll keep in touch with family members via video chat.
Gates also urged Americans to wear masks and social distance, addressed testing and tracing campaigns, as well as the Biden transition. The full interview follows below:
How worried should we be about the next few months of Covid-19?
— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) November 22, 2020
How confident is @BillGates in Covid-19 vaccine candidates? And how worrisome is America’s stilted presidential transition?
Pt. 2 of our conversation, from today’s GPS: pic.twitter.com/Rev3faRGeU
— Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) November 22, 2020