Health and Wellness

Bill Gates: This is the 'very best case' scenario for when life can return to normal post-pandemic

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates participates in a discussion during a luncheon of the Economic Club of Washington June 24, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

Six months into the Covid-19 pandemic, it can be hard to remember life before the novel coronavirus. So when might the pandemic end so that things can return to normal?

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has an idea about what the best-case timeline looks like for Americans.

"In the very best case, two years from now, you would be, for some of the health things in particular, ideally back at where you were at the beginning of 2020," Gates said in an interview with New York Magazine's Intelligencer.

In other words, by 2022, life in rich countries could be back to how things were pre-pandemic.

And what would it take to achieve this kind of progress?

"If we're lucky enough that several of these vaccines work, including the ones that are low cost enough that we can scale the manufacturing," Gates said. And if the vaccines can be mass-produced to "for the entire world," then there is hope, he said.

"I do think once you get into, say, December or January, the chances are that at least two or three will [seek approval]  if the effectiveness is there," Gates told CNBC via video conference last week.

"In that case, during 2021, the pandemic is going down, and in 2022, the global pandemic comes to an end," he told Intelligencer.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, has slightly shorter timeline.

"By the time you mobilize the distribution of the vaccine and get a majority or more of the population vaccinated and protected, that's likely not going to happen until the end of 2021," he said in an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" Friday.

"If you're talking about getting back to a degree of normality prior to Covid, it's going to be well into 2021, towards the end of 2021," Fauci said.

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Fauci also said during a recent Harvard Medical School panel discussion that in regard to the pandemic Americans will need to "hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it's not going to be easy."

Currently there are more than 170 vaccines being developed worldwide, with at least 31 in clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization. Gates told reporters that Pfizer's vaccine is the only one that could theoretically get emergency use license by the end of October.

President Donald Trump suggested that there could be a vaccine before Election Day on Nov. 3 in a  press conference on Sept. 7. However, Fauci said that it's "unlikely we'll have a definitive answer" at that time.

Gates said in the new interview that he thinks distributing vaccines to everyone in the world will "stretch" into 2022.

"Unless you get herd immunity at really surprising levels, like 20 or 30 percent, you've got 7 billion people, each of them needing two doses," Gates told Intelligencer. (Many of the vaccines in development will require an initial dose plus a booster in order to be effective, and even then it is still unclear how long any immunity will last.)

"That's 14 billion doses to administer," Gates said. "We don't make anything at that volume. So even if 80 percent of all the vaccines get approved and we get all this capacity, to get the eradication it stretches into 2022.

"You hope it doesn't stretch past 2022," he said.

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