Healthcare

Gates says risk of severe COVID-19 has reduced, warns of another pandemic

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates said that the risk of severe COVID-19 infection has reduced dramatically but warned that another pandemic caused by a different pathogen could be around the corner. 

In an interview with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at Germany’s annual Munich Security Conference, the billionaire said the novel coronavirus has spread to enough of the population that the “risks are dramatically reduced because of that exposure.”

The omicron variant, first discovered in South Africa, spread like wildfire in the United States after it was detected around the holiday season. Gates said that the strain, which is known to cause less severe disease but remains highly transmissible, has beat out health officials administering vaccines to the public and infected individuals. 

“The chance of severe disease, which is mainly associated with being elderly and having obesity or diabetes, those risks are now dramatically reduced because of that infection exposure,” he said.

However, Gates warned that there are a lot of viruses in the world and that another pandemic was likely from a germ in the coronavirus family. 

“There’s a lot of diseases out there,” he said. “We’ll have another pandemic. It will be another pathogen next time.” 

Other researchers have also said another pandemic is likely around the corner, including the Center for Global Development.

Gates explained that there were two solutions to approaching the next pandemic if the world learned from the fight against the novel coronavirus.

“One is to make sure the limited supply [of a vaccine] is allocated in a more rational way,” he said. “The second is to just have so much capacity that you can supply all of mankind with two doses in a very short period of time.”

Gates called on the world to invest now in ways to prepare for a future pandemic. He added that making enough vaccines for the world “should be our aspiration.”

Public health experts have cautioned against proclaiming the pandemic over, but states are largely dropping or planning to drop mask mandates and COVID-19 restrictions as case numbers decline. 

Tags Bill Gates Coronavirus COVID-19 COVID-19 pandemic Gates Foundation Next pandemic

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