3 Covid-19 breakthroughs Bill Gates says 'will make 2021 better than 2020'
- In his end-of-year blog post, Bill Gates says the challenges we've faced in 2020 have bred innovations and collaborations that will support a brighter global future.
- Additional effective vaccines, better coronavirus tests, and an ability to tackle climate change are among the factors that will make 2021 will be better than 2020, Gates wrote.
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A pessimist would say next year will be better than this year because it can't get much worse, with more than 1.6 million people dead from COVID-19, millions out of work and school, devastating wildfires, and political unrest.
But billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, a perpetual optimist, says next year will be better than this year because 2020 has bred some astounding scientific breakthroughs.
"When I think back on the pace of scientific advances in 2020, I am stunned," the Microsoft founder wrote in his latest blog post, published Tuesday. The annual post reflects on the unprecedented challenges of the past twelve months, and offers insight into what lies ahead.
"Humans have never made more progress on any disease in a year than the world did on COVID-19 this year," he continued. "Under normal circumstances, creating a vaccine can take 10 years. This time, multiple vaccines were created in less than one year."
Here's some of what else Gates said will set us up for more success come 2021.
Because two vaccines work, more are likely to work as well
Both Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines have been shown to be safe and highly effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Because they work by targeting the coronavirus's spike protein, one of its defining components, vaccines in development that do the same are likely to work as well, Gates wrote.
Companies and countries have learned to collaborate
Due to the severity of the pandemic and the urgent need to fight it, companies that would naturally be competitive began working together. "For example, the biggest vaccine manufacturer in the world, Serum Institute of India, is producing doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine," Gates wrote.
The unusual nature of these types of agreements is "hard to overstate," he said. "Imagine Ford offering up one of its factories for Honda to build Accords."
Countries, too, have, for the most part, collaborated in ways that bode well for the future, according to Gates.
"There's no way we would be as far along as we are if governments, companies, and scientists around the world weren't, more often than not, working closely together," he said. "This global cooperation is one reason why I see promise in the year ahead - and not only the promise of getting the pandemic under control. I believe the world also has a chance to take concrete steps on one of the other great challenges of our time: climate change."
Uncomfortable coronavirus tests will become obsolete
Gates has been vocal about the sorry state of coronavirus testing in the US, where it often takes days to get results, rendering them useless - or, as he's said earlier, "completely garbage."
But one of several advances in that department is an innovation that allows people to collect their own samples by swabbing just the tip of their noses, rather than having a provider plunge it deep into your nostril.
"If you've ever had one of the nasopharyngeal tests, you know how uncomfortable they are-and how they can make you cough or sneeze, which is bad news with a respiratory virus like Covid-19 because it increases risks to healthcare workers," he wrote. "With any luck, the days of the jam-a-stick-to-the-back-of-your-throat Covid-19 test will soon be over."
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