Bill Gates “Enthused” About COVID-19 Vaccines

Bill Gates continues to talk about COVID-19 vaccine candidates and efforts to battle the ongoing pandemic. In an interview that aired this morning on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Gates talked more about work on a COVID-19 vaccine, treatments for the coronavirus, kids returning to school and more.

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Bill Gates on the COVID-19 vaccine

In the interview with Ross Sorkin, Bill Gates said he's "enthused" about the COVID-19 vaccines the U.S. has funded so far. He said the first wave of vaccine candidates includes about five options, while the second wave includes additional candidates that are cheaper than the first wave.

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However, since they are in earlier stages of development, they won't be finished as quickly as the first wave. Gates described Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine as "particularly good" and "low cost."

Two of the first vaccines to enter development are AstraZeneca's candidate and Moderna's candidate. He added that his vaccine experts at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are speaking to their experts every day about the COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

He explained that the way they put the world's resources behind the coronavirus vaccine "isn't just driven by a normal sort of market thing." He said it will require cooperation "to figure out within a country and across countries where this vaccine should go."

Treatments for the coronavirus

Sorkin asked the Microsoft co-founder about treatments for COVID-19, and he talked about the antiviral drug Remdesivir. He said it's being used for those with serious symptoms, and it' possible to move it to a form that would be given earlier and be easier to administer, a process they are currently studying.

Remdesivir is given via an IV infusion, but there are two other antiviral treatments which are more likely to be oral instead of an infusion. Bill Gates expects those two treatments or a reformulation to be figured out by the end of the year.

He added that monoclonal antibodies are "probably the most promising class" of treatment for COVID-19. He said Regeneron, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca are "doing some pretty strong work" in this area. The trials on treatments for COVID-19 are going faster than work on the vaccine, according to Gates.

He expects the death rate to be significantly reduced by the end of the year with the combination of these new therapies, many of which could be given when serious symptoms arise but before the patient enters intensive care.

Bill Gates on going back to school and working from home

One of the hot debates right now is whether children should go back to school amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gates believes that if teachers can be well-protected, the benefits of children going back to school outweigh the costs.

He said administrators will have to determine what to do about their high schools on a case-by-case basis. If high schools aren't in session, he said officials will have to "put massive effort into trying to get there to be continued learning online.

On the topic of working from home, Gates said he's "amazed" about how productive people are while working from home. He noted that when new employees are hired, it's difficult because of "the kind of conversations they would have" after a meeting or "running into people."

Gatesadded that the online experience isn't as good at those kinds of casual experiences or hanging out before and after a meeting. He said some of those issues can be improved, but he doesn't think the need for brick-and-mortar offices will be eliminated. He does think long-distance travel will occur less often and that "there's room for creativity on which benefits you get from what type of get together."

Bill Gates on the COVID-19 vaccine, tests and what should be done now

The billionaire philanthropist said COVID-19 tests that take more than 48 hours to get the results back are a complete waste. He also said most tests are complete waste because the results need to be back as soon as possible so people can "change their behavior, so they're not infecting other people."

He said the number of cases is too high for contact tracing to work. As the numbers come down, he expects contact tracing to kick in. For now though, he said paying $1 for a test that takes three days or even sometimes seven days to get the results back is unacceptable.

He believes low-income communities and those that are most at risk should be getting the results back within 24 hours. Bill Gates also said that aside from a COVID-19 vaccine, getting treatments and tests are the next thing to push toward getting the world back to normal.

Conspiracy theories

Bill Gates also addressed the conspiracy theory that suggests he invented the coronavirus in order to profit off a vaccine. He said that conspiracy theory is "unfortunate," but what really hurts is if people aren't willing to take the vaccine.

Many are concerned about safety as the COVID-19 vaccine is being pushed through as quickly as possible, but Gates wants to encourage people to get it when it becomes available. He said when the vaccine goes through the safety process, the FDA is the "best in the world at a professional level of being able to review that." Gates added that he is worried about getting people to take the COVID-19 vaccine.