Health and Wellness

Bill Gates: Vaccine distribution could be 'tricky and weird' thanks to the federal government

Bill Gates
Gerard Miller | CNBC

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said that it appears that "almost all the vaccines are going to succeed" in preventing Covid infections, during an interview with NBC's "TODAY" on Thursday.

Drug makers Moderna and Pfizer have applied for emergency use authorization for Covid vaccines from the Food and Drug Administrations. But there are still major hurdles to ending the pandemic, including figuring out how the U.S. will be able to immunize enough people.  

Gates said vaccine distribution could be "tricky and kind of weird" because the Centers for Disease Control hasn't had a visible role during the public health crisis, Gates told Savannah Guthrie.

"The federal government has abdicated on many things during the pandemic," Gates said.

With regards to vaccine distribution, for example, state, tribal, territorial and local governments are tasked with determining who can receive the vaccine first and distributing it, in accordance with guidelines outlined by the CDC.

"The federal government has way more resources than the states," Gates said. "Punting this to the states means we won't be perfect, but it will get done."

Health experts have expressed concern that this process could interfere with Americans' ability to get vaccinated in a timely manner. (In the meantime, the "most impactful thing" people can do to stop the spread of Covid is to avoid contact with others, maintain good hand hygiene and wear a mask, Gates said.)

Gates added that, overall, the Trump administration could have handled the pandemic better. "As we do the post mortem, there'll be a lot of things, like confused messaging [and] lack of leadership, that will fall on the executive branch," he said. "We'll hope that the next time we do a lot better."

Gates has criticized the U.S. response to the pandemic in the past, including leadership and adherence to preventative measures like wearing a mask.

"Our response in most respects has not been very good. And we would have expected it to be good," Gates told CNBC's "Squawk Box" co-host Becky Quick in an interview that aired Oct. 14.

"Most governments take advantage of their scientists and listen to them. They don't undermine them and attack them," Gates said on "Squawk Box." "Mask compliance in the United States is quite poor. And yet the cost of the mask and the productivity lost from [not wearing] the mask, it's quite an intervention."

The first phase of the vaccine rollout will include health-care workers and vulnerable Americans, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. The CDC says all adults should be able to get vaccinated later in 2021.

President-elect Joe Biden is already working with government officials responsible for vaccine rollouts, "so the new Administration can waste no time and begin delivering results for the American people as quickly as possible," Biden spokesperson TJ Ducklo told NBC News Friday.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $400 million to the global response to Covid.

Check out: Bill Gates on pandemic: By spring ‘we’ll be headed back to normal’ — here’s the ‘most impactful’ thing you can do now

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