Bill Gates recently took to Reddit for a Ask Me Anything (AMA) session about the coronavirus pandemic. The Microsoft co-founder used the session to share his personal insights and answer questions posed by educators, concerned members of the public and more (via Digital Trends.)
Some of Bill Gates' answers in the AMA cover current social distancing protocols, which countries will suffer the most, how long the virus will last, and even testing protocols, too. Here's one of his answers about what worries him most, and how coronavirus will impact countries.
With the right actions including the testing and social distancing (which I call "shut down") within 2-3 months the rich countries should have avoided high levels of infection. I worry about all the economic damage but even worse will be how this will affect the developing countries who cannot do the social distancing the same way as rich countries and whose hospital capacity is much lower.
More importantly, however, Gates also talked about vaccine efforts. On a question about if the 18-month timeline for a vaccine could be shortened, here's what he had to say. It's also worth mentioning that Gates thinks that when a vaccine is developed, it should go to health care workers and “critical workers” first.
There are over 6 different efforts going on to make a vaccine. Some use a new approach called RNA which is unproven. We will have to build lots of manufacturing for the different approaches knowing that some of them will not work. We will need literally billions of vaccines to protect the world. Vaccines require testing to make sure they are safe and effective. Some vaccines like the flu don't for the elderly.
With many states here in the US opening their own drive-through Coronavirus testing facilities, this seemed to be a topic of concern for a lot of Redditors in the AMA. Testing is still best kept for the elderly and first responders and healthcare workers, but Gates had a lot of answers on this front, too.
The testing in the US is not organized yet. In the next few weeks I hope the Government fixes this by having a website you can go to to find out about home testing and kiosks. Things are a bit confused on this right now. In Seattle the U of W is providing thousands of tests per day but no one is connected to a national tracking system.
We need to democratize and scale the testing system by having a CDC website that people go to and enter their situation. Priority situations should get tested within 24 hours. This is very possible since many countries have done it. Health care workers for example should have priority. Elderly people should have priority. We will be able to catch up on the testing demand within a few weeks of getting the system in place. Without the system we don't know what is missing - swabs, reagents etc..
Bill Gates recently announced that he would be stepping away from his seat at Microsoft, but will continue to be engaged with Satya and the technical leadership. His foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, sets out to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. Gates' AMA covers a lot of other topics which we simply can't include all-in-one post. Feel free to check it out, and let us know what you think by dropping us a comment.