COVID-19 Pandemic End In Sight Says Bill Gates

MICROSOFT founder and billionaire, Bill Gates who has in  past hogged headlines for predicting an Armageddon type of COVID-19 pandemic says he now sees the light at the end of the tunnel and the COVID-19 pandemic’s end could be within our reach.

This article is an extract from Gate’s end of year review of the prevailing pandemic which can be accessed on the gatesnotes.com website. Read the extract below from Gates. NB// all the information below was penned by Bill Gates himself:

Why I’m hopeful the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is finally in sight

In my previous end-of-year post, I wrote that I thought we’d be able to look back and say that 2021 was an improvement on 2020. While I do think that’s true in some ways—billions of people have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and the world is somewhat closer to normal—the improvement hasn’t been as dramatic as I hoped. More people died from COVID in 2021 than in 2020. If you’re one of the millions of people who lost a loved one to the virus over the last twelve months, you certainly don’t think this year was any better than last.

Because of the Delta variant and challenges with vaccine uptake, we’re not as close to the end of the pandemic as I hoped by now. I didn’t foresee that such a highly transmissible variant would come along, and I underestimated how tough it would be to convince people to take the vaccine and continue to use masks.

I am hopeful, though, that the end is finally in sight. It might be foolish to make another prediction, but I think the acute phase of the pandemic will come to a close some time in 2022

Employees practice safety procedures at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/Getty Images)
A barista announces the reopening of her coffee shop. (Getty Images)

There’s no question that the Omicron variant is concerning. Researchers—including a network called GIISER that is supported by our foundation—are working urgently to learn more about it, and we’ll have a lot more information (like how well vaccines or previous infection protect you against it) soon. But here’s what we do know: The world is better prepared to tackle potentially bad variants than at any other point in the pandemic so far. We caught this variant earlier than we discovered Delta because South Africa has invested heavily in genomic sequencing capabilities, and we’re in a much better position to create updated vaccines if they’re needed.

It’s troubling any time a new variant of concern emerges, but I’m still hopeful that, at some point next year, COVID-19 will become an endemic disease in most places. Although it is currently about 10 times more lethal than flu, vaccines and antivirals could cut that number by half or more. Communities will still see occasional outbreaks, but new drugs will be available that could take care of most cases and hospitals will be able to handle the rest. Your individual risk level will be low enough that you won’t need to factor it into your decision-making as much. It won’t be primary when deciding whether to work from the office or let your kids go to their soccer game or watch a movie in a theater. In a couple years, my hope is that the only time you will really have to think about the virus is when you get your joint COVID and flu vaccine every fall.

Now that we’re starting to move towards the end of this pandemic, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what went right and what went wrong over the last two years. We can learn important lessons from the world’s COVID-19 response that will make us better prepared next time.

Even though the pandemic has dragged on longer than anticipated, a lot has gone well. To start, the progress we’ve made on vaccines is remarkable. The world has never made and distributed a vaccine for a disease faster than it did for COVID-19. The fact that we had one—let alone multiple!—vaccines during the first year of the pandemic is miraculous. That success is a tribute to how many candidates the world had in the pipeline. Vaccine development relies on a little bit of luck, and we hedged our bets by trying so many different approaches.

I think mRNA vaccines will ultimately be seen as the most consequential breakthrough of the pandemic. Proving that mRNA works as a vaccine platform has been a massive gamechanger—not just for this pandemic, but for the next one too. Now that mRNA is well-established, we’ll be able to develop safe and effective vaccines super-fast in the future.

We also learned a lot about non-pharmaceutical interventions (or NPIs) that will inform disease response moving forward. NPIs include things like mask mandates, quarantine procedures, and travel restrictions. The last two years have given us the opportunity to see how effective different strategies are against a respiratory disease like COVID. Next time, the world will be ready to deploy cheap and easy tools like masks much quicker, and governments will have a greater understanding of when and how to deploy more burdensome strategies like lockdowns.

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