Bill Gates, now known best for warning the world five years ago about a coming pandemic, delivered more predictions on March 8 about Covid-19, some bound to disappoint and others optimistic.
The bad news is that an effective Covid-19 vaccine is not likely until somewhere around September 2021, and the US will not be able to ease up on social distancing measures that have shut broad swathes of its economy until the end of May this year without risking a resurgence in cases.
Gates’s estimated 18-month time frame assumes that vaccine development efforts his foundation is funding will move at “full speed, ... taking a little bit of risk on the side effects”, and the manufacturing capacities for all of the most promising ones under development immediately even though few of the candidates will prove to be effective.
Ten of about 100 vaccines under development “are very promising”, including the Moderna-NIAID vaccine funded by an international consortium based in Oslo, Norway called Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI. One of these 10 vaccines, called Moderna-NIAID, went into its first phase of human trials on March 16, and others will start testing within the next month.
Once the US has brought Covid-19 under control in the April-May time frame, “I do think that things like running factories, doing construction, going back to school, those things can be done,” Gates said, adding that professional sporting events will be less likely until a vaccine is available and enough people receive it.
The good news, according to Gates, is that the world will not likely face another pandemic after Covid-19 because lessons learned about testing and surveillance, and internationally financed medical solutions now under way to respond to the current crisis, will be able to contain future human pathogens before they reach the “global, tragic scale” of the current one.
The focus for Gates’s Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which partly supports the CEPI vaccine trials, and for health authorities and many pharmaceutical companies globally “has shifted to accelerating, not only the vaccines, but also therapeutics, so that if we could find drugs, which can be antivirals or immune suppressants or antibodies, there's actually multiple classes that could come more rapidly”, Gates said.
He added that such coordinated global infrastructure devoted to a medical response to pandemics could make effective therapeutics available within four to six months of an outbreak. — South China Morning Post
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