Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Lintao Zhang | Getty Images News | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – Bill Gates has predicted that up to half a dozen Covid-19 vaccines could be approved and ready for distribution by the spring of 2021 as medical advances in fighting the coronavirus increase.
"I expect about six vaccines to be approved by the first quarter," said Gates on Tuesday, speaking virtually at the Singapore FinTech Festival.
Rapid vaccine developments
Last week, the UK became the first country to approve the emergency use of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The introduction is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will vote on their approval on Thursday.
Gates – whose non-profit organization of the same name, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has long advocated global health developments, including vaccinations – congratulated regulators in developed countries on their rapid progress.
We need to make sure we (distribute) in a somewhat fair way … not how rich you are determines whether you get access.
Founder, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
"The Western regulators are doing an excellent job," he said. "They conducted these phase 3 studies in an incredibly professional manner, looking for side effects and investigating effectiveness."
Gates noted, however, that much remains to be done, including by organizations like his own, to ensure that vaccines are distributed fairly in all countries, especially less developed ones.
Ensure fair distribution
"We have to make sure we (distribute) in a somewhat fair way. This is not rich enough for you to decide whether to get access to this vaccine," said Gates.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is already working with the Indian Serum Institute, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, to begin manufacturing and distributing AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine candidate on a national basis. A similar agreement will be reached with serum for the Novavax vaccine, Gates said, while a separate manufacturer for the candidate will be found by Johnson & Johnson once it is approved.
All three candidates rely on traditional vaccine technology, which means they can be developed and stored at a relatively lower cost and with less difficulty than their counterparts at Pfizer and Moderna. That makes them more suitable for distribution to less wealthy nations.
"The goal is to spread these things as widely as possible in 2021. Even in developing countries, the pandemic will be over sometime in 2022," Gates said.