Bill Gates says there could be a ‘substantial’ reduction in coronavirus death rate by the end of 2020

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Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said therapeutic drugs to treat the coronavirus could dramatically reduce the death rate by the end of this year, but that a vaccine will be essential in bringing back a sense of normalcy in the society.“You can see the therapeutic benefit faster than the protective benefit,” Gates said in an interview broadcast Tuesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”. “So I think there is a good chance that we will have a substantial reduction in the death rate by the end of the year thanks to the combination of these new tools. ”

Microsoft co-founder and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said remdesivir is one of the main treatments in therapeutic research. Remdesivir is an antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences that has reduced the risk of death for critically ill Covid-19 patients by 62% compared to standard care alone.

Gates said there are two other antivirals that scientists are studying that can be given orally instead of being injected intravenously like the remdesivir treatment.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in February announced plans to donate $ 100 million to vaccine research and coronavirus treatment efforts as part of the World Health Organization’s request for $ 675 million. dollars in contributions to fight the spread of the virus. In June, the foundation pledged an additional $ 1.6 billion to the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, an organization focused on efforts to immunize children amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I would also say that monoclonal antibodies are probably the most promising class … You have people like Regeneron, Eli Lilly, and AstraZeneca doing a pretty hard job,” Gates added.

Even though these new therapies will significantly help coronavirus patients with severe symptoms, he said it will not “bring us back to full normality.”

“Until you really block the transmission, have long periods of time without anyone going to the hospital, the worry is going to be there,” he said.

Several pharmaceutical companies have tested their potential vaccines in clinical trials, with some entering late-stage human trials in a race to gain regulatory approval before the end of 2020.

US pharmacist Pfizer and German biotech company BioNTech announced Monday that they had just started their advanced stage human trial. Earlier this month, they said that one of their four vaccine candidates produced neutralizing antibodies, which researchers believe are necessary to boost immunity to the virus, in all participants who received two of the doses of 10 or more. 30 micrograms.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech received $ 1.95 billion in funding from the U.S. government to produce and deliver 100 million doses of their vaccine if it is found to be safe and effective.

Moderna, another leading pharmaceutical company in the race to develop a vaccine, also announced on Monday that it had received additional funding of $ 472 million from the government. The company had already received $ 483 million from the federal agency in April.

Gates said Tuesday he was “excited about all the vaccines funded by the United States.”

“We live every day with our vaccine experts talking to these companies, because the way we put global resources behind them is not just driven by some sort of normal market. This is a cooperation to determine within a country and between countries where this vaccine should go, ”he said.

The billionaire also stressed the importance of convincing the public to take the vaccine if and when it becomes available. He said health officials need to send clear messages that the FDA is “not taking shortcuts” and is following its professional safety process.

“Well, it’s essential that people don’t think we’re rushing,” he says. Gates admitted he was “worried” but not surprised that people were worried about the effectiveness and safety of the first coronavirus vaccine.

“I hope they look at the facts, understand the values ​​of the people they are thinking of and understand that we are in this situation together and that we need to protect each other with masks and possibly with collective immunity. with a vaccine, ”he said.

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