BILL GATES: Sadly, the virus itself, particularly the variant called Omicron, is a type of vaccine. That is it creates both B cell and T cell immunity. And it has done a better job of getting out to the world population than we have with vaccines.
If you do surveys of African countries, something like 80% of people have been exposed either to the vaccine or to various variants. What that does is it means the chance of severe disease, which is mainly related to being elderly and having obesity or diabetes, those risks are now dramatically reduced because of that infection exposure.
It’s sad, we didn’t do a great job on therapeutics. Only here, two years in, do we have a good therapeutic. Vaccines took us two years to get to oversupply. Today there are more vaccines than there are demand for vaccines. And that wasn’t true. And next time we should try and make it instead of two years, we should try and make it like six months.
Certainly, some of the standardized platforms, including mRNA, would allow us to do that. It took us a lot longer this time than it should have…
QUESTION: Are we going to see another pandemic before we are able to beat this one?
BILL GATES: We’ll have another pandemic. It will be a different pathogen next time.
We’ll have some rebound. This pathogen we don’t have a tool to do eradication. We’d like to have a new generation of vaccines that would be suitable. Ideally, we’d get rid of families of respiratory viruses including the flu family and the coronavirus family.
And I do think in the next decade we can come up with an eradication vaccine. That’s an aspiration, not a guarantee, but we should be putting R&D dollars in that.
There’s already a lot of work that has been done on a universal flu vaccine and the data on that looks very promising.
So we’ll have rebounds, but they’ll be more typical seasonal flu levels, where of course we don’t generally shut things down. Although in the future, some degree of mask-wearing probably will be indicated. But we won’t get death levels at the kind of acute level we’re kind of experiencing today as the Omicron wave passes through on a global basis.