The coronavirus pandemic as killed more than 150,000 Americans, disrupted the U.S. economy, and thrown society into disarray heading into the fall.
If there is any silver lining, according to Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates, it would be the progress made toward treating people with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and a vaccine.
"The only positive thing out of this is that the pace of innovation, the way [the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation] is working with the private sector to create therapeutics and vaccines, that's moving at record speed,” Gates said in an episode of Influencers with Andy Serwer.
“And that's what gives us hope,” he added. “That we can get the death rate down, better therapeutics … and then during 2021, we should be able to manufacture a lot of vaccines.”
The Gates Foundation has pledged more than $1.6 billion towards the effort to find a vaccine to control the COVID-19 outbreak. That money will go towards the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) to manufacture and deliver COVID-19 vaccines.
GAVI, formed in 2000, has a mission is to develop and distribute vaccines in some of the world’s poorest countries for diseases such as HIV/AIDS and polio.
‘It’s a very tough set of trade offs that everyone’s going through’
Testing has recorded more than 4.6 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., with California and Florida setting new records for single-day deaths this week. Overall, the country will likely see 1,000 deaths per day in the weeks ahead.
A working vaccine is imperative to getting the country back on its feet. The Food and Drug Administration recently indicated that it’s prepared to authorize a coronavirus vaccine, as long as it’s 50% effective.
“The ultimate solution, the only thing that really lets us go back completely to normal and feel good about sitting in a stadium with lots of other people, is to create a vaccine,” Gates said previously. “And not just take care of country, but take that vaccine out to the global population so that we have vast immunity and this thing, no matter what, isn’t going to spread in large numbers.”
A number of drug companies have proceeded to start clinical trials. Pfizer stated that it has the potential to manufacture up to 100 million vaccine doses by the end of 2020, and 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
In the meantime, schools across the country face the tough decision on whether or not they should reopen even without a vaccine.
“It’s a very tough set of trade offs that everyone’s going through,” Gates told CNBC.
Gates offered his perspective on why in-person instruction would make sense for younger kids.
“I’m a big believer that for young children, the benefits in almost every location — particularly if you can protect the teachers well — the benefits outweigh the costs,” he explained.
“As you get up to age, like, 13 and higher, then you’ll have to look at your locale to decide what you’ll do with high schools,” he added. “And if they’re not in, then you have to put massive effort into trying to get there to be continued learning online.”
Aarthi Swaminathan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.