Billionaire Bill Gates just made a shock announcement about the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with Wired published on Friday, Gates said he’s optimistic about eradicating the coronavirus — but that such a feat could still be a long way off.
“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,” Gates said, according to 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.”
Citing “the scale of the innovation that’s taking place,” Gates said he remains hopeful. Still, he suggested to Wired that he’s concerned the U.S. government might rush to put out a vaccine that hasn’t been sufficiently proven safe or effective.
“We probably need three or four months, no matter what, of phase 3 data, just to look for side effects,” Gates told the outlet. “The FDA, to their credit, at least so far, is sticking to requiring proof of efficacy. So far they have behaved very professionally despite the political pressure.”
Gates added: “There may be pressure, but people are saying no, make sure that that’s not allowed.”
The billionaire also made clear in his interview that he has a meager view of how the federal government is handling coronavirus testing.
“The majority of all U.S. tests are completely garbage, wasted,” he reportedly told Wired.
Gates suggested that labs running testing for COVID-19 should be held to higher standards — in particular, he wants them to be forced to return results within 48 hours.
“If you don’t care how late the date is and you reimburse at the same level, of course they’re going to take every customer,” he said of the labs, according to Wired. “Because they are making ridiculous money, and it’s mostly rich people that are getting access to that.”
Gates suggested: “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.”
According to The New York Times, the coronavirus has infected over 5 million Americans and killed nearly 163,000.