Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has become somewhat of a Covid-19 authority, with his philanthropic body, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, investing billions into finding a vaccine for the deadly virus.
Gates has previously said we will likely see a Covid-19 vaccine out in circulation “early next year”, but has now revealed exactly when life will assume its pre-Covid normality.
In the first episode of his new podcast, Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions, Gates said even if Covid case numbers reduce, as long as the virus remains in the world, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a pre-Covid “normal” again.
“If we have the disease elsewhere in the world, it's not clear to me we can go back and do big sports events, or open up the bars, because you know, like Australia or South Korea, the risk of reinfection will be looming out there,” Gates said.
“And so, as long as it's in the world, I'm not sure we'll be completely back to normal.”
The billionaire actually sounded the alarm on Covid-19 back in 2015 in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak, saying that was a wake up call for the world on pandemic preparedness. He reiterated his calls three years later, warning that a flu pandemic could wipe out as many as 33 million people around the world in just six months.
Now, Gates says many people are likely to remain quite conservative in their behavior, particularly if they associate with older people, or people whose risk of infection is high.
“If it's still out in the world, you know, even the countries that have very little virus are mostly still being very careful about public events, because it could get into their country,” he said.
Gates and Jones interviewed US infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, who said without major breakthroughs in testing or treatments, it’s unlikely we’ll see any kind of “normal”.
“We have good therapies for people with advanced disease,” Fauci said.
“What we don't have a lot of, is something you can give to someone early in the course of infection to prevent them from getting to the hospital.
“This is important, not only, for example, in the United States and in the developed world, [but] also in the developing world, where you don't have the hospital capabilities of taking care of somebody who gets seriously ill.”
Fauci agreed with Gates’ predictions, adding that a vaccine will only be effective if people choose to be vaccinated.
“If you have a vaccine… that's 99 per cent effective, and 99 per cent of the people take it, then you're in really good shape. But that is not going to happen.”
Covid-19 vaccine trials positive
There have been some positive movements in the vaccine space overnight, with interim data from US biotech company Moderna Inc showing its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19.
The data was pulled during the company’s phase 3 trials of 30,000 participants in the US.
Last week, it was also revealed that Pfizer Inc’s vaccine was 90 per cent effective, based on initial data from its phase 3 trial.
Both companies have been working on messenger RNA vaccines, which are different to traditional vaccines in that they don’t put weak or inactivated doses of a virus into the body to make the immune system produce antibodies.
Instead, messenger RNA vaccines introduce the virus into your body by giving it a genetic code, which tells it to replicate a particular protein that’s found within the virus.
This in turn activates your immune system. It’s generally cheaper and quicker to produce this kind of vaccine, which is crucial to stopping this virus in its tracks.