Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is focusing his energy on helping to end the coronavirus pandemic and is growing increasingly frustrated by President Donald Trump's response. In a frank interview with Wired, the billionaire said he was disappointed with the U.S. reaction to the pandemic and criticized Trump for "muzzling" the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gates also called the majority of tests in the U.S. "garbage" and "wasted."
Gates has been warning of a pandemic coming for years. The U.S. would have been better off if it spent the past few years building up "the diagnostic, therapeutic, and vaccine platforms, and if we'd done the simulations to understand what the key steps were." He also pointed out how the U.S. "made it harder" for commercial testing companies to get tests approved, then the CDC had a test that did not work ar first and then they did not let people get tested. "The travel ban came too late, and it was too narrow to do anything," Gates explained. "Then, after the first few months, eventually we figured out about masks, and that leadership is important."
The White House also stopped letting the CDC "do its job" after March, Gates said. The CDC "been the face of the epidemic," he said. "They are trained to communicate and not try to panic people but get people to take things seriously. They have basically been muzzled since the beginning. We called the CDC, but they told us we had to talk to the White House, a bunch of times."
Gates said it was "stupidity" that people have to wait long periods to get test results back, calling most U.S. tests "completely garbage, wasted." He noted that "mostly rich people" have access to quick conclusions. "You have to have the reimbursement system pay a little bit extra for 24 hours, pay the normal fee for 48 hours, and pay nothing [if it isn't done by then]. And they will fix it overnight."
Despite his disappointment in where the U.S. is today, Gates said he did have reasons for optimism. "You have to admit there's been trillions of dollars of economic damage done and a lot of debts, but the innovation pipeline on scaling up diagnostics, on new therapeutics, on vaccines is actually quite impressive," he told Wired. "And that makes me feel like, for the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021, and for the world at large by the end of 2022. That is only because of the scale of the innovation that's taking place."
Earlier this week, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $150 million to Serum Institute of India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, to send 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to poorer nations at just $3 per dose, reports Forbes. Gates said he is worried there will be a rush to get a vaccine out that has not been through the rigorous testing other vaccines have been through. "We probably need three or four months, no matter what, of phase 3 data, just to look for side effects," Gates said, going on to praise the FDA for "sticking to requiring proof of efficacy. So far, they have behaved very professionally despite the political pressure."
On Saturday, the U.S. hit almost 5 million coronavirus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University Data. The death toll stands at 162,395 and 1.6 million Americans have recovered from COVID-19. About 61 million tests have been conducted nationally, according to the university.