Millions more will die before the COVID-19 pandemic is over, said Bill Gates. But, these deaths will not be a result of the disease itself, but due to the excessive burden on healthcare systems and economies worldwide, he added.
The Microsoft co-founder predicts that a "reasonably" effective vaccine will be in mass production by the end of 2021 and the majority of the world population would be immunised thereby halting the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
Elaborating on his statement, Gates said that more than 90 percent of the deaths would be unrelated to coronavirus.
"Lockdowns will restrict people's access to medicine for other diseases. Subsequently, deaths from malaria and HIV will increase," he said.
The Bill Gates foundation contributed more than $350 million to the pandemic response, but that will not suffice, more is needed, Gates said in an interview to The Economist.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"Billions must be spent to produce COVID-19 vaccine to stop the economic damage, which is costing trillions," he said.
According to him, unreliable data makes it difficult to assess the precise extent of the damage in many poor countries.
"By August 17, Africa has recorded more than 25,000 COVID-19 deaths and in India, nearly 52,000 have died from the disease. However, the actual number in both places is much higher," Gates added.
Explaining about research conducted on the novel coronavirus infection, Gates said that the study suggests the other coronaviruses in circulation have granted a measure of protection against COVID-19.
"Novel coronavirus is not as contagious as some other diseases. Around 30-60 percent of the world’s population needs to be vaccinated to contain the pandemic," he said, adding "Fortunately this isn't measles, we don't need over 90 percent of people to take the vaccine."Click here for Moneycontrol's full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak