With optimism rising that an end to the coronavirus pandemic is in sight as shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine began Sunday, Bill Gates warned in a television interview that the U.S. was far from out of the woods yet and is facing what is likely to be the deadliest period over the winter.
“Sadly the next four to six months could be the worst of the pandemic,” Gates, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed significant resources to the quest for a vaccine, told CNN on Sunday.
Trucks pulled out of Pfizer’s factory in Michigan on Sunday laden with the first shipments in an initial distribution round of around 3 million doses, and Food And Drug Administration Dr. Stephen Hahn said during a television interview Sunday he expects the first shots to be administered on Monday.
Healthcare workers and nursing home residents will get the vaccine first, and it won’t be until the spring or summer before shots are widely available.
For that reason, health officials say the virus is not likely to be under control in the U.S. until the “back half of 2021”—as Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said—when most of the population, around 75%, is vaccinated, generating an “umbrella of herd immunity.”
“In the near term, it’s bad news,” Gates went on, citing an Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model that shows the U.S. could suffer more than 200,000 additional deaths by April 1, 2021 from the virus.
What To Watch For
Pfizer’s vaccine will arrive at 145 distribution locations on Monday throughout all 50 states, with 425 more receiving shipments on Tuesday, and 66 on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. It will take up to three weeks for the first round of doses to be shipped out to all government-identified vaccine sites. The vaccine is being apportioned by state population.
The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at 94 degrees below zero, which has posed logistical issues.
Hahn said Sunday he doesn’t think allergic reactions to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine will be a “highly frequent issue”: “We do not think that this is a highly frequent issue that will arise, but we do want to be careful because vaccine safety, medical product safety is top of mind for us,” the FDA chief said.
Asked to comment on President Trump’s executive order prioritizing Americans for vaccine shipments, Gates said: “Well, the extreme idea that everybody should die until we have the very last American vaccinated, that’s hardly the appropriate response.”
$1.75 billion. That’s how much the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated to the fight against Covid-19, according to Forbes.