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Bill Gates.
Credit: Flickr Photo/Thomas Hawk (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Bill Gates: 'Ask Me Anything about Covid-19'

Bill Gates has been warning the world about pandemics for years. Today he hopped on Reddit to do an AMA for COVID-19.

The following are some of the questions Gates answered from Redditors around the globe.


What do you think of the current approach the Netherlands is currently taking to combat this virus? They are not going to a full lock-down but rather try to spread it controllably in order to work towards ‘herd immunity’.


The only model that is known to work is a serious social distancing effort ("shut down"). If you don't do this then the disease will spread to a high percentage of the population and your hospitals will be overloaded with cases. So this should be avoided despite the problems caused by the "shut down". If a country doesn't control its cases then other countries will prevent anyone going into or coming out of that country. I think the Netherlands will end up doing what other countries are doing.


Should there be a national shelter in place order? Why or why not?


Most people can shelter in their home but for people who that doesn't work for there should be a place for them to go. We are working on seeing if we can send test kits to people at home so they don't have to go out and so the tests get to the people who are the priority. The US still is not organized on testing.


How long will this go on?


This will vary a lot by country. China is seeing very few cases now because their testing and "shut down" was very effective. If a country does a good job with testing and "shut down" then within 6-10 weeks they should see very few cases and be able to open back up.


Is there any chance that the 18 month timeline for development of a vaccine can be shortened, and by how much?


This is a great question. There are over 6 different efforts going on to make a vaccine. Some use a new approach called RNA which is unproven. We will have to build lots of manufacturing for the different approaches knowing that some of them will not work. We will need literally billions of vaccines to protect the world. Vaccines require testing to make sure they are safe and effective. Some vaccines like the flu don't for the elderly.

The first vaccines we get will go to health care workers and critical workers. This could happen before 18 months if everything goes well but we and Fauci and others are being careful not to promise this when we are not sure. The work is going at full speed.


What about the current crisis worries you the most? What gives you the most hope?


The current phase has a lot of the cases in rich countries. With the right actions including the testing and social distancing (which I call "shut down") within 2-3 months the rich countries should have avoided high levels of infection. I worry about all the economic damage but even worse will be how this will affect the developing countries who cannot do the social distancing the same way as rich countries and whose hospital capacity is much lower.


Is there anything you can do to assist with ventilator production?


There are a lot of efforts to do this. If we do social distancing ("shut down") properly then the surge of cases won't be as overwhelming. Our Foundation's expertise is in diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines so we are not involved in the ventilator efforts but it could make a contribution to have more especially as the disease gets into developing countries including Africa.


Thoughts on chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine?


There are a lot of therapeutic drugs being examined. This is one of many but it is not proven. If it works we will need to make sure the finite supplies are held for the patients who need it most. We have a study going on to figure this out. We also have a screening effort to look at all the ideas for Therapeutics because the number being proposed is very large and only the most promising should be tried in patients. China was testing some things but not they have so few cases that that testing needs to move to other locations.

Read the entire Bill Gates Ask Me Anything on Reddit here.

The questions and answers here are presented as they originally appeared and have not been edited for typos or clarity.