Microsoft founder Bill Gates says COVID testing in the United States has been carried out badly and the government needs to take responsibility.
Gates spoke to Fox News on Sunday, saying limited access to testing for the COVID-19 virus has been a problem in the US, which has been hit by more than 6.8 million confirmed cases, by far the most of any country in the world and now nearing 200,000 deaths.
Gates said even with its technological strengths and capabilities, the US approach hasn’t been good enough.
“Even today, people don’t get their results in 24 hours. It’s outrageous that we still have that…”
“I do think we need to own up to the fact that we didn’t do a good job. Part of the reluctance I think to fix the testing system now is that nobody wants to admit that it’s still outrageous … The U.S. has more of these machines, more of this capacity than other countries by a huge amount. And so partly the reimbursement system is creating a perverse incentive,” Gates said to Fox News .
“Even today, people don’t get their results in 24 hours. It’s outrageous that we still have that,” Gates said.“
Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has worked for decades now on health-related issues in the developing world, delivered his Goalkeeper’s Report for 2020, an annual summation of how well efforts have fared in fighting poverty and disease worldwide. Gates said the COVID-19 pandemic has set back efforts on both of those fronts.
“Because of the pandemic, we’ve had huge setbacks, in some cases erasing literally decades of progress,” Gates said. “It really underscores that we’ve got to bring this pandemic to an end, not just in a few rich countries but in the entire world.”
Speculation persists over when one or a number of potential vaccines for COVID-19 will pass testing and be made available to the public. Gates, whose foundation has given $650 million to fight COVID-19, which is the largest donation from any independent foundation, said a suitable vaccine could be available by early 2021 but that it’ll be next summer before life in the US starts to return to normal and, by the best case scenario, the pandemic is over by 2022.
At the same time, Gates was critical of the US government, saying it needs to take a leadership role on providing access to vaccines in the developing world once they’re made available.
“I believe that by early next year, of the six leading vaccines — the ones further along in the West —that probably three or four of those will show efficacy and safety. And that’s when the challenge will be, ‘Okay how do you allocate it?’” Gates said.
“And the way to answer that challenge is just to get so much volume that you’re not having to make really terrible trade offs. We show in the report that if you distribute equitably, you have half as many deaths than if you just give to only to the rich,” Gates said.
“The place the US has not shown up is in helping to buy the vaccine for developing countries,” he said.