“This has been a devastating year.”
Bill Gates opened his end of year post on Tuesday in his personal blog, GatesNotes, by stating the obvious. The coronavirus pandemic, the billionaire and philanthropist writes, has killed 1.6 million people worldwide while infecting 73 million, and has caused trillions in economic damage. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, rampant wildfires and a “presidential election unlike any other” contributed to upheaval across the country.
But, Gates says, “there is good news coming in 2021.” Citing stunning scientific advances made in developing and distributing effective vaccines against Covid-19, Gates writes, “Humans have never made more progress on any disease in a year than the world did on [coronavirus] this year.” Despite vaccines taking up to 10 years to develop, scientists created multiple Covid-19 vaccines this year—just one of multiple scientific developments Gates says people should be hopeful about for 2021.
By the spring, Gates writes, the vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, with emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, should reach “the scale where they’ll have a global impact.” The number of deaths and cases should decline in wealthy countries as a result, he writes, meaning “life will be much closer to normal than it is now.”
Gates adds that the success of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines bodes well for other candidates still in development, because they all attack the same part of the coronavirus. The spikes that stick out of the coronavirus (which also gave the virus its name) are made from a protein, Gates writes, that the two successful vaccines attack. “Now that researchers know attacking that particular protein can work, they have reason to be optimistic about other vaccines that do the same thing,” he writes.
The two successful vaccines both use mRNA technology, Gates notes. “It’s no accident that mRNA vaccines were the first out of the gate,” he says, because those kinds of vaccines can be created faster, because it’s easy for scientists to make large quantities of RNA that codes for the virus’ spike protein. According to the Centers for Disease Control, mRNA vaccines “teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.” Gates writes that his charitable foundation has been working on mRNA vaccines since 2014 to use against HIV and malaria, and the technology is now allowing “unprecedented progress” against Covid-19.MORE FOR YOU Fox News, News max Walk Back Election Fraud Claims After Voting Machine Manufacturer Threatens Legal Action Pennsylvania Man Charged With Voter Fraud For Casting Ballot For Trump Under Dead Mother’s Name Trump Reportedly Asked Advisors About Deploying Military To Overturn Election
Another challenge: producing enough doses for the entire world. Between five to ten million doses will be needed, depending on whether vaccines require one or two doses for full efficacy. For context, Gates says, the world’s vaccine companies typically produce a total of 6 billion doses annually, for flu shots and childhood immunizations, among others.
In order for Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing to ramp up without sacrificing the other, routine shots, Gates writes that his foundation is connecting vaccine companies in wealthy countries with high-volume producers in developing countries in what are called “second source agreements.” The producers create safe and affordable vaccines in huge quantities, while the vaccine companies supply a viable candidate, with the agreement making “the most of both skill sets.”
Gates also takes the opportunity to call out “false” conspiracy theories surrounding Covid-19 vaccines—including “some that involve [my wife Melinda Gates] and me.” “It doesn’t help,” he writes, adding that the couple will continue to publicly discuss funding vaccines because “we’re passionate about saving lives and making sure all children have a chance to grow into adulthood…[we] feel a responsibility to give our wealth back to society, and we believe that no outlet for our giving returns more value to the world.”
Another hope for 2021, Gates writes, is that the “uncomfortable” Covid-19 test—the nasopharyngeal swab, which recipients often say feels like their brain is being tickled—could soon be a thing of the past. The FDA approved the first at-home test last week that uses a nasal swab, but doesn’t go as far back in the nose, which Gates points to as an example of a better, more efficient means of testing, because people won’t have to wait for labs to process samples. Gates adds that a study funded by his foundation revealed that letting people swab the tips of their own noses yielded test results that are just as accurate as the more invasive, brain-tickling one. And several companies are working to develop other rapid, non-invasive tests that provide results in as little as 15 minutes. Not only is the experience more comfortable for the patient, the fast results will help researchers track the spread of the virus, Gates writes. “The pace of innovation in this field really is impressive and is going to benefit everyone.”
Gates wraps up with a different, yet significant scientific challenge: climate change. He’s releasing a book in February on the subject, titled How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, in which he shares 15 years of learnings from funding studies on the phenomenon. Plus Gates appears to see the incoming Biden administration as more focused on climate change, writing that “the U.S. is poised to resume a leading role” in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions next year. And, he adds, an upcoming November 2021 United Nations meeting will bring together world leaders to discuss climate change for the first time since the Paris summit in 2015.
“I see promise in the next 12 months,” Gates writes. It might not be “enormous,” but “it will be a noticeable, measurable step forward” for the world, and an “improvement on 2020.”