Melinda Gates, wife of billionaire Bill Gates, told CNN on Thursday that she was “incredibly disappointed” that President Donald Trump’s signed an executive order that put Americans at the front of the line to receive coronavirus vaccines.
“The president just signed an executive order to try to put Americans at the front of the line when it comes to vaccines,” CNN host Poppy Harlow said, adding, “I wonder if that’s what you were worried about when you kept saying and warning against vaccine nationalism?”
“That’s exactly what we were worried about,” Melinda Gates responded. “I knew it was coming and I was just incredibly disappointed.”
“I’m much more optimistic about the president-elect and the COVID task force, this eminent task force that he has put together,” Melinda Gates said with a smile on her face. “I think we’re going to see a lot more sensible policy making in the United States, but that starts, you know, January 20 and we have still some dark months to live ahead until then.”
Melinda Gates later spoke about “disinformation,” which she said “can equal death.” Harlow asked her if social media companies have a “responsibility” to remove misinformation “off their platforms.”
“They absolutely have a responsibility,” Melinda Gates replied. Anybody who is spreading information in society has a responsibility to spread that information safely and equitably. “So, you know, I think a bit the internet and the rise of social media has happened so quickly that really the regulations and the good policy making hasn’t stayed out in front of it and, quite frankly, it needs to catch up.”
Melinda Gates also attacked Trump, claiming there “could have been less deaths” if he did things differently, including contact tracing, which some have criticized as being potentially unconstitutional
Melinda Gates said @realDonaldTrump's executive order putting Americans at the front of the line for the COVID-19 vaccine made her feel "incredibly disappointed." pic.twitter.com/tWYAhEGxIZ
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) December 10, 2020
POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Today is a huge day, the Pfizer vaccine may be approved by the FDA by the end of today. Stepping back for a moment, how significant is it that we are on the verge of potentially multiple highly effective vaccines being approved in this country so quickly?
MELINDA GATES: It is incredible. I mean, if you think about where we were on March 30th, I don’t think any of us would have predicted that by the end of December or mid-December we would have vaccine. It is an incredible tribute to the vaccine community, to the scientists who have worked night and day on these vaccines to even get us to this point. It is a really exciting moment for the country.
HARLOW: It is for sure, but you have still warned that we have a stretch of very dark months ahead of us. What worries you the most as we sit here this morning?
GATES: Well, what worries me the most is how do we get this vaccine out? How do we make sure we get this vaccine out to the far corners of the globe, these first five vaccines that are to come? Because everybody needs this vaccine and if we only get it to the high-income countries, this disease is going to bounce around, we’re going to see twice as many deaths and part of this announcement that Bill and I are making of this $250 million is to buy 200 million doses for the rest of the world, for low and middle income countries.
HARLOW: A quarter of a billion dollar investment donation from the Gates foundation being announced today. This goes largely towards equitable distribution, which your foundation has said is going to be even more expensive than developing a vaccine.
GATES: Well, it takes a lot of planning to get vaccine out to these remote rural areas. The planning has to start now if, in fact, we’re going to get vaccine there and it’s got to be purchased, manufactured, and then there has to be money there for it to be purchased. So the world needs to put up more money to make sure that low-income countries can get the vaccine.
HARLOW: The president just signed an executive order to try to put Americans at the front of the line when it comes to vaccines, granted it doesn’t really have any teeth because pharmaceutical companies have made deals and guarantees with other nations around the world. I wonder if that’s what you were worried about when you kept saying and warning against vaccine nationalism?
GATES: That’s exactly what we were worried about. Instead what should be done is the Defense Production Act which is they should be scaling up lots and lots of manufacturing so that not just the U.S. gets vaccines, but everybody gets vaccines. So this is this reservation system is exactly the type of thing we were concerned about.
HARLOW: What did you think when you heard the president say that?
GATES: I was — I knew it was coming and I was just incredibly disappointed. I’m much more optimistic about the President-Elect and the Covid task force, this eminent task force that he has put together. I think we’re going to see a lot more sensible policy making in the United States, but that starts, you know, January 20th and we have still some dark months to live ahead until then.
HARLOW: Have you been speaking to the President-Elect directly?
GATES: Yes, we have.
HARLOW: So what did you and maybe you and bill, tell President-Elect Joe Biden you believe, you know, task number one on day one is for his administration on this front?
GATES: One of the things I know about President-Elect Biden is he is not just thinking about how to keep Americans safe, he’s thinking about global leadership about how to keep everybody safe, and the great news is we will add more money to our economy if we get everybody else vaccinated.
HARLOW: Very troubling to see the new numbers out of pew research that only 42% of black Americans trust vaccines right now for Covid and it’s understandable given the history of this country going back to Tuskegee and beyond, but I wonder what we need to do about that.
GATES: Yes, we have to address the disparities that people of color face in our health system. There are reasons they don’t want to go to the health system and even when they they go they’re discriminated against or there’s bias. We have got to fix that if we’re going to have all Americans be safe.
HARLOW: Disinformation has been rampant, to say the least, throughout this pandemic, and it’s rampant once again when it comes to the vaccine. What are the consequences of that?
GATES: Death. Disinformation can equal death. So if you don’t do the right things to keep yourself safe, you or a loved one may die. And that’s why it’s so discouraging to see so much disinformation spread out there. And what I tell everybody is ask your doctor. He or she knows what’s best for you or your family. That’s where you go for credible information, not the Internet.
HARLOW: But unfortunately a lot of people go to the Internet and you are formally of the tech world so I wonder if you could just speak to those in power at the tech companies, at the social media companies in particular right now. Do the social media companies, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, on and on, have a responsibility to do more right now, Melinda, in terms of getting this misinformation, this disinformation, off their platforms?
GATES: They absolutely have a responsibility. Anybody who is spreading information in society has a responsibility to spread that information safely and equitably. So, you know, I think a bit the internet and the rise of social media has happened so quickly that really the regulations and the good policy making hasn’t stayed out in front of it and, quite frankly, it needs to catch up.
HARLOW: You have said we’ve seen far more deaths than was necessary in the United States from Covid and I wonder how many deaths, if you think there are a significant number of deaths, that could have been prevented with better leadership from the top, from President Trump.
GATES: We know there could have been less deaths. If we had started from the beginning or reassessed on July 1st or reassessed on September 1st and instead of having 50 different state solutions had a national plan for testing that was grouped up, that grouped up the testing so everybody had access to a lab and to get the results quickly and then we did contact tracing, we would have kept the death rate down.
HARLOW: What’s the most important thing, Melinda, that you have learned this year?
GATES: I have learned that we have a resilience that I think maybe sometimes we don’t even realize we had as human beings.