Fresh off a third vaccine candidate garnering U.S. regulatory approval, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called the rapid development of vaccines “a miracle” that should help Americans return to an “almost-normal” way of life as early as fall but also warned that lawmakers aren’t doing enough globally to usher in a full return-to-normal before the end of next year.
Speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, 65-year-old Gates said that autumn should bring about some normalcy for Americans with “basically every school back in session,” some level of occupancy in restaurants and sporting events all once again taking place.
“The big problem is that we’re not doing enough to end the pandemic globally,” Gates warned, adding that vaccines thus far are “just going to rich countries,” which leaves the risk that contagious variants could spread abroad and creep back into the United States.
That risk–compounded by the potential wave of reinfections–means a full return to normal “could take all of 2022 unless we do a better job,” Gates said.
Additional vaccine factories in nations like India could help curtail the risk of infection abroad and bring about a quicker return to normalcy, Gates suggested, pointing to vaccine-makers AstraZeneca, NovaVax and Johnson & Johnson that are already working on such projects.
Speaking to CNN earlier Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said the United States now has three “really good vaccines” that Americans should “have no hesitancy whatsoever to take”–a sentiment Gates echoed of the five candidates approved for distribution in the Western World.
“Sadly, the CDC fell short a tiny bit with the initial tasks,” Gates said Sunday, pointing to early shortfalls in Covid-19 testing. “It’s too bad that the vaccine rollout started under the same sort of ‘denial administration,’ and now it’s harder to get it back in place, but the supply and logistics will not be limiting within about three months here in the United States.”
Covid-19 reinfections have been confirmed since the virus started circulating in late-2019, but it’s still unclear how widespread they may be, and they’re sure to be more harmful in nations where vaccination has yet to kick into high gear. The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine–one of two candidates not yet approved in the United States–was shipped to Ghana last week, but only a handful of developing countries have started meaningful vaccination efforts. Meanwhile, the world surpassed 2.5 million Covid-19 deaths on Thursday.
A January study by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research found that global economic output could take a $3 trillion hit if vaccines fail to reach emerging markets quickly enough, with advanced economies like the United States facing up to half the impact.
$123.2 billion. That’s how much Gates, the world’s fourth-richest person, is worth, according to Forbes.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Bill Gates is currently the world’s second-richest person. He is the world’s fourth-richest person.