Bill Gates has been speaking out against the way medical facilities in the U.S. have been performing coronavirus tests. Specifically, he said it takes too long to get results in many cases. He even went so far as to call most coronavirus tests in the U.S. “completely garbage” in a recent interview.
CDC has been "muzzled"
Bill Gates spoke to Wired about coronavirus tests in the U.S., among other topics. He talked again about his disappointment with the U.S. response to COVID-19. He said he has been disappointed with the time period between 2015 and the current pandemic.
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He explained that if the U.S. had built up its vaccine, treatment and diagnostic platforms and done the simulations to understand the major steps of dealing with a pandemic, the response would've been better.
Bill Gates was also disappointed with the first few months of the pandemic when the U.S. made it more difficult for companies making coronavirus tests to get their tests approved. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a "very low volume test that didn't work at first."
The agency also wasn't allowing people to test. Further, he said the travel ban was too late and was "too narrow to do anything." After the first few months, officials finally figured out what to do about masks, and he said that leadership was important.
The Microsoft co-founder was also surprised at the disappointing response to the pandemic in the U.S. He said the smartest epidemiologists in the world are at the CDC, so he would have expected them to do better. He also said the CDC should be the most visible rather than the White House or Dr. Anthony Fauci.
He explained that the CDC is "trained to communicate and not try to panic people but get people to take things seriously." He believes the agency has been "muzzled" since the pandemic began. He added that his foundation had called the CDC several times, but they were told that the agency had to talk to the White House.
Now they say they're doing a good job on testing, and they don't want to talk to Gates. He believes the White House prevented the CDC from doing its job after March. He believes the agency has "done a good job since April, but we haven't had the benefit of it."
Bill Gates on vaccines, coronavirus tests
Wired asked Gates about progress on COVID-19 vaccines. He said before the epidemic, there was "huge potential" in RNA vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, and CureVac. However, they are difficult to scale up and manufacture, so he thinks they will only help wealthy countries. He believes the low-cost, scalable vaccines will come from AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson.
Many have said they wouldn't get the coronavirus vaccine when it's available because they're worried about safety. Gates confirmed those worries, saying that he does believe some vaccines will "get out to lots of patients without the full regulatory review in the world," specifically in China and Russia. He said three or four months of phase three data is needed to look for side effects.
Wired also asked Bill Gates about coronavirus tests. His foundation funded a testing program in Seattle that got faster results and wasn't as intrusive as other tests, but the Food and Drug Administration paused the program.
Gates said inserting a swab in the tip of the nose is just as effective as sticking a swab to the back of the nose. He added that those who are still using the other tests are just out of date "because it slows things down.
Bill Gates also said the fact that it takes many coronavirus tests to return results is "just stupidity." He said most U.S. tests are "completely garbage, wasted." He said all tests shouldn't be reimbursed for the same amount. The reimbursement system should pay a little extra for 24 hours and the normal fee for 48 hours and nothing if the results aren't back by then. He believes the testing system would be corrected overnight if these changes were made.