MILLIONS MORE are going to die before the covid-19 pandemic is over. That is the stark message of Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s largest philanthropists via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in an interview with Zanny Minton Beddoes, The Economist’s editor-in-chief, in early August. Most of these deaths, he said, would be caused not by the disease itself, but by the further strain on health-care systems and economies that were already struggling. He also lamented the politicisation of the response to the virus in America, and the spread of conspiracy theories—some implicating him—both of which have slowed efforts to contain the disease’s spread. But he offered reasons for hope in the medium term, predicting that by the end of 2021 a reasonably effective vaccine would be in mass production, and a large enough share of the world’s population would be immunised to halt the pandemic in its tracks.
Mr Gates had spent much of his time thinking about viruses, and vaccines, well before the novel coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei late last year. The Gates Foundation is central to the global alliance trying to eradicate polio by vaccinating everyone and to ease the burden of malaria and find a vaccine against it. It is several years since he warned that a new disease causing a global pandemic was a matter of when, not if, and called for the world to hold “Germ Games” along the lines of the wargames carried out by armies. The foundation has already pledged more than $350m to the covid-19 pandemic response, much of which is focused on reducing its impact in the developing world. But more is needed. “We all need to spend billions to get the vaccine out to save the trillions that the economic damage is doing”, he says.
Credit: The Economist