The billionaire said ‘next time’ scientists must work better to produce enough vaccines sooner
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said the Covid-19 Omicron variant had outpaced world vaccine drives in spreading immunity, urging health officials around the globe to respond more quickly to the next pandemic.
Asked about the world’s progress in “beating Covid-19” During a panel at the 2022 Munich Security Conference on Friday, the tech magnate and philanthropist credited the coronavirus itself for immunizing populations naturally in some regions.
“Sadly, the virus itself – particularly the variant called Omicron – is a type of vaccine. That is, it creates both B-cell and T-cell immunity, and it’s done a better job of getting out to the world population than we have with vaccines,” he said.
Due to a large amount of “infection exposure” in certain regions, the risk of serious illness from Covid-19 has been “dramatically reduced,” Gates continued, also noting that severe symptoms are “mainly associated with being elderly and having obesity or diabetes.”
“Sadly, the virus itself – particularly the variant Omicron – is a type of vaccine. That is, it creates both B cell and T cell immunity. And it’s done a better job of getting out to the world population than we have with vaccines.” – Bill Gates
— Laura Dodsworth (@BareReality) February 18, 2022
Gates spoke with confidence in predicting a new major health crisis on the horizon, telling the panel “We’ll have another pandemic,” though said “It will be a different pathogen next time.”
To tackle the next outbreak, health authorities and researchers must act more quickly to develop vaccines and treatments, he said, acknowledging “we didn’t do a great job on therapeutics” throughout the Covid pandemic.
“Only two years in do we have a good therapeutic. Vaccines – it took us two years to be at oversupply,” he said. “Next time, instead of two years, we should make it more like six months.”
Ultimately, Gates voiced hopes for a “new generation of vaccines” capable of eradicating entire families of respiratory viruses, including influenza and coronaviruses, saying that achievement could come “in the next decade” if sufficient “R&D dollars” are devoted to the cause.