Bill Gates isn’t an immunologist and he doesn’t even play one on TV.
But the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft has immersed himself in the study of the world’s problems and donated billions of dollars to tackle the scourge of malaria in Africa through his philanthropic foundation. So when he speaks, people listen, which makes what he said last week about COVID-19 interesting.
“It wasn’t until early February, when I was in a meeting, that experts of the foundation, said ‘there’s no way'” that COVID-19 could have been contained, he said.
“At that point, we didn’t really understand the fatality rate. We didn’t understand that it’s a fairly low fatality rate, and that it’s a disease mainly of the elderly, kind of like the flu, although it’s a bit different than that,” Gates said.
He later hedged a bit, saying Americans need to stay vigilant as he criticized the initial response to the virus. “That was a pretty scary period, where the world didn’t go on alert, including the United States, nearly as fast as it needed to,” he said.
Gates also had something to say about the latest variant of the virus and the efficacy of vaccines. “Once Omicron comes along, the vaccine is not reducing transmission, hardly at all, particularly about three or four months after you take the vaccine,” he said.
His comments came after top officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said much the same thing, that COVID-19 is now akin to the flu.
“FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, Principal Deputy Commissioner Janet Woodcock and the agency’s top vaccine official, Dr. Peter Marks, wrote that COVID-19 will be in circulation for the foreseeable future and must be accepted as another common virus in the Journal of the American Medical Association,” the Daily Caller reported. “Like with influenza, this new reality will likely require annual COVID-19 shots to be tailored around the most threatening strains of the virus, the officials wrote.”
“Widespread vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, combined with the availability of effective therapeutics, could blunt the effects of future outbreaks. Nonetheless, it is time to accept that the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is the new normal,” the officials wrote. “It will likely circulate globally for the foreseeable future, taking its place alongside other common respiratory viruses such as influenza. And it likely will require similar annual consideration for vaccine composition updates in consultation with the [FDA].”
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.