Melinda Gates on the pandemic response + vaccine challenges: 4 things to know

Erica Carbajal - Print  | 

The Gates Foundation has poured nearly $500 million into COVID-19 pandemic response efforts and despite the challenges ahead, Melinda Gates remains optimistic about the battle against COVID-19, according to a New York Times interview. 

Here are four insights from the interview:

1. A lockdown and mask-wearing in the U.S. should have been implemented sooner to reduce the spread. "We can look at how this disease traveled around the world and see that the countries who locked down first, they're doing better," Ms. Gates said. "We should have said sooner that if you're going to go out, wear a mask. I mean, the fact that we're still debating that in the U.S. makes zero sense." 

2. The number of vaccine candidates is reason to remain optimistic about distribution challenges. Vaccines that need to be stored at arctic-level temperatures will be harder to distribute, particularly to remote areas, "but there are vaccines coming right behind those, so I'm quite optimistic," Ms. Gates said. 

3. Vaccine hesitancy and disinformation are among the top barriers. "The disinformation has been incredibly harsh, and it affects people's lives," Ms. Gates said. "But I'm also hopeful that as the vaccine comes out and people see that it's safe and efficacious, they will start to take it so that they can go out and return to normal." Ms. Gates also attributed the rise in vaccine hesitancy to social media and conspiracy theory spread. 

4. The Trump administration's interference with government agencies like the CDC and FDA has politicized the vaccine development process. "The FDA is our gold standard," Ms. Gates said. "It's how we know our vaccines are safe and efficacious. So [the CDC and FDA] need to be independent organizations and left as independent so that we can trust them." 

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