Bill Gates to Anti-Vaxxers: 'How Else Can You Get Out of a Tragic Pandemic?'

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has questioned the position of anti-vaxxers amid the COVID-19 crisis, asking "how else can you get out of a tragic pandemic?"

Gates, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $350 million to fighting COVID-19, made the comments in an interview with Bloomberg.

According to the foundation's website, $250 million of that total will go towards improving approaches for detecting, isolating and treating coronavirus cases, including speeding up the development of vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics. And $100 million is going to the public-private global health partnership GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, to help deliver COVID-19 vaccines in lower-income countries.

There are 167 vaccines being developed by teams of scientists around the world, with 29 in clinical evaluation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Polls suggest some members of the public are reluctant to get vaccinated. A Gallup survey conducted between July 20 to August 2 and published last week found 35 percent would not get a vaccine, even if it were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and free of charge.

The Bloomberg interviewers stated: "For years, people have said if anti-vaxxers had lived through a pandemic, the way their grandparents did, they'd think differently. Whoops."

Gates replied: "it's ironic that people are questioning vaccines and we're actually having to say, 'Oh, my God, how else can you get out of a tragic pandemic?'"

Heath experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have said a coronavirus vaccine may be ready by the end of the year, or the start of 2021. Russia has meanwhile sparked controversy by claiming it has approved a vaccine.

Asked how confident he was that an effective vaccine would be widely distributed by the end of 2020, Gates said: "the initial vaccine won't be ideal in terms of its effectiveness against sickness and transmission. It may not have a long duration, and it will mainly be used in rich countries as a stopgap measure."

Gates said: "We'd be lucky to have much before the end of the year."

Asked whether the vaccine should be mandatory, the 64-year-old business magnate said that approach can "often backfire.

"But you might say that if you're going to work in an old-folks home or have any exposure to elderly people, it would be required."

Gates went on to predict the "true end" of the pandemic would come from herd immunity acquired by vaccines and natural infections, "sometime next year" for rich countries.