Bill Gates certainly knows a thing or two about communicable diseases. Ever since he and his wife Melinda started the Gates Foundation, their work was focused on improving public health systems across the world. Gates even wrote a blog in 2015, asking if the world was ready to deal with a pandemic. With the World Health Organisation terming the spread of coronavirus as a pandemic, Bill Gates conducted a session on Reditt, where people could ask him anything. Most of the questions were on how one could contain COVID-19.
One of the biggest concerns of course is the development of a vaccine, with every nation admitting that the development of a vaccine (including human trials) will take any time between a year and 18 months to be available in the market. “We will have to build lots of manufacturing for the different approaches knowing that some of them will not work. We will need literally billions of vaccines to protect the world. Vaccines require testing to make sure they are safe and effective. Some vaccines like the flu don't work for the elderly. The first vaccines we get will go to health care workers and critical workers. This could happen before 18 months if everything goes well but we are being careful not to promise this when we are not sure. The work is going at full speed,” he said.
Interestingly, in 2015, Gates had categorically said that we weren’t ready to tackle a pandemic. During this time, the Ebola outbreak had hit West Africa, killing over 10,000 people. : s awful as this epidemic has been, the next one could be much worse. The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease—an especially virulent flu, for example—that infects large numbers of people very quickly. Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic,” he had written then.
Currently, the data that we have on the COVID-19 strain shows that the virus has a fatality risk of 1 per cent i.e. one death in every 100 people. But with the world’s population of approximately 7.8 billion people, that is almost 78 million deaths due to the coronavirus.
Data suggests that the average infected person spreads the disease to two or three other people, which is a massive exponential raise, says Gates. “There is also strong evidence that it can be transmitted by people who are just mildly ill or not even showing symptoms yet. This means COVID-19 will be much harder to contain than Middle East Respiratory Syndrome or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which were only spread by those showing symptoms and were much less efficiently transmitted. In fact, COVID-19 has already caused 10 times as many cases as SARS in just a quarter of the time,” wrote Gates in his blog.
Gates is, however, optimistic that this phase will be overcome. He has attributed this to the hard work put by healthcare officials who are toiling day and night to take care of people, as well as the scientists working to find the perfect vaccine to overcome the disease.