With the release of their foundation’s latest annual Goalkeepers Report, Bill and Melinda Gates are doing a lot of interviews and pushing one primary message: The U.S. is failing in its coronavirus response, and that represents a failure for the globe. That’s something we’ve heard from Bill Gates repeatedly since the covid-19 pandemic began earlier this year, but now the Microsoft founder is saying the trust he has in the United States’ health agencies is wavering.
Speaking with Bloomberg on Tuesday, Gates was asked about the Trump administration’s unnerving claims that a vaccine will be ready to distribute before the November election—a timeline that seems unrealistic if drug companies intend to safely complete stage three efficacy trials. Just this morning, President Trump told Fox News that he personally “speeded up the process with the FDA” and as a result, “we’re going to have a vaccine in a matter of weeks, it could be four weeks, it could be eight weeks.” Bloomberg asked Gates if he’s worried that vaccine approvals are being influenced by politics. He replied by saying that “any suggestion that a politician, you know, helped create the vaccine or it’s faster because of a politician is a very dangerous thing.”
Gates pointed to the example of FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn hyping his agency’s authorization of a blood plasma therapeutic procedure in August, and the fact that many health experts believe that Hahn grossly misrepresented data about the treatment. “We saw with the completely bungled plasma statements that when you start pressuring people to say optimistic things, they go completely off the rails,” Gates said. “So, the FDA lost a lot of credibility there.”
But Gates stopped short of writing off the FDA completely. “I think in the FDA there’s a lot of professionals,” he explained cautiously. He said that there have “been some cracks with some of the things they’ve said at the commissioner level,” but “hopefully the staff isn’t pulled in that direction.”
While the president’s overwhelming record of lying to the American public will lead many to dismiss his vaccine comments, it also seems to be having an effect on whether or not they’ll trust any vaccine that the administration claims to be safe. Several recent polls have found the majority of Americans believe the FDA is rushing a vaccine due to political pressure.
Gates pointed to the vaccine safety pledge that was signed by nine pharmaceutical companies last week reassuring the public that they’ll follow standard scientific procedures in developing their vaccines. Not everyone will find it reassuring to hear that our best hope is to trust private companies, but Gates is confident that “[t]hese vaccines are going through the stage three trial where you look at the efficacy and you look at all the medical records to see if there [are] any adverse events,” and he thinks a safe vaccine “is very likely to come out of this R&D war.”
In an interview with Axios, Melinda Gates laid the blame for America’s catastrophic coronavirus response firmly at the feet of the president and his lackeys. “We’ve had—terrible leadership on this issue, quite frankly,” she said. Asked if any other variable played a part in the U.S. becoming the world leader in covid-19 cases and deaths, she said it simply comes down to “our leadership and response.”
In an audio recording from February—the beginning of the pandemic’s arrival stateside—Trump told Bob Woodward that covid-19 was “deadly stuff” despite his public statements calling it nothing to worry about. In March, he always wanted to “play it down” because he didn’t “want to create a panic.” Over the months, Trump’s instincts to lie about the virus have appeared to spread throughout his government.
For a clear portrait of the madness that has spread in our top health agencies, look no further than Michael Caputo, the Trump-appointed spokesperson for the United States Department of Health & Human Services. On Sunday, Caputo went on an unhinged rant on his personal Facebook page accusing government scientists overseen by his department of “sedition,” and he warned people to “buy ammunition” because “when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin.”
“The CDC has largely been written out of the picture because you have people at the White House who aren’t epidemiologists saying what a great job they’ve done,” Bill Gates told Bloomberg. “So it’s no longer a set of experts.” Gates lamented the tarnishing of the CDC’s reputation but did admit that the agency made mistakes earlier this year when it was arguably experiencing less influence from the top. For instance, he said the agency failed in its insistence on using an “overly complicated” test at the outset. He also hammered on the need for a 24-hour turnaround time for testing as other countries have managed to achieve. Speaking with Stat News this week, Gates said that taking more than a day to deliver test results just leaves time for people to start writing “apology notes to the people [they] infected in the meantime.”