Bill Gates has criticized the US coronavirus response before, and he continues to do so. In another interview this week, he described it as “weak” and gave the US a failing grade in its response to COVID-19. However, he had high praise for the US effort on vaccine and treatment development.
His comments come months after his wife Melinda gave the US response to the coronavirus a D-.
Bill Gates told Time in an interview that he would give the US coronavirus response "on a relative and absolute basis, not a passing grade." He added that during past global health crisis like polio or smallpox, the US has been a leader in the global response.
However, that changed with COVID-19. Gates said the countries that have led the way in the global response to the coronavirus are those that were exposed to MERS or SARS. He added that those countries "set a very strong model."
He said about six countries quickly went to their private sectors and asked how to get mass testing up and running and committed to buying tests. Gates added that the US never did that with COVID-19. He said the US is still dealing with major delays in getting test results back.
Gates said in another interview this week that it's "a waste of money" to perform COVID-19 tests that don't return results in 24 or at least 48 hours. He explained that fast results are needed because they enable people to quickly make the necessary changes to keep others from being infected.
Best response to research on vaccines and treatments
Despite his harsh criticism for the US coronavirus response, Bill Gates had high praise for the nation's research on therapeutics and vaccines. He described the US funding response to the need for research as "the best in the world."
He added that if the US coordinates with the rest of the world to share its resources, it could "score the highest" in that area. Gates explained that whenever there is a pandemic, the world's governments must work together to fully eradicate the disease.
Gates believes that by the end of the year, the death rate from COVID-19 will come down substantially because new treatments will be available. He noted in a previous that remdesivir, an antiviral drug that must be given intravenously, has reduced the death rate for those with very severe symptoms.
Two other antiviral medications that can be given orally are being studied, and Gates expects them to make a big difference in the death rate by the end of the year.
He said companies that create vaccines must work with companies that have capacity in their factories to produce those vaccines and will adopt tiered pricing, which will enable the poorest countries to get the vaccine for the lowest price.
He also said steps must be taken to ensure that the vaccine is distributed equally, both within and between countries. Gates added that this can't be done just using market forces because the private sector on its own would just charge the highest possible price and only give the vaccine to the wealthy.
According to Bill Gates, one other issue with the US coronavirus response is the fact that the nation hasn't "shown up in the international forums where money to get these tools out to countries is being discussed." However, he added that it "still absolutely can be fixed."