Bill Gates says healthcare workers may get a coronavirus shot within 18 months as scientists race to develop a vaccine

bill gates
bill gates

Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times

  • Bill Gates predicted on Reddit that healthcare professionals and other critical workers could start getting a coronavirus vaccine within 18 months.

  • That's about in line with predictions from top US health officials about when a vaccine may be available.

  • Gates' comments come just two days after a possible vaccine for the novel coronavirus began human trials.

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Bill Gates said we could have an approved vaccine for the novel coronavirus within the next 18 months "if everything goes well."

A number of different organizations are working to make the world's first vaccine for the coronavirus, Gates wrote during a Reddit question-and-answer session. Once produced, the vaccine would go to healthcare professionals and other critical workers first before reaching the general population, he continued.

"The first vaccines we get will go to health care workers and critical workers," he wrote. "This could happen before 18 months if everything goes well."

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the backers of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a group providing funding to scientists working on a novel coronavirus vaccine. The organization announced a seventh COVID-19 project on Wednesday.

Gates' timeline is in line with projections by officials. The head of the National Institutes of Health's infectious-disease wing, Anthony Fauci, has told reporters that the process will take 12 to 18 months.

Moderna, a Massachusetts biotechnology company that's received support from CEPI, launched the world's first human trials for the novel coronavirus earlier this week. The company uses a technology called messenger RNA, which has never yielded an approved vaccine.

"Some use a new approach called RNA which is unproven," Gates said on Wednesday. "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."

Gates also shared a letter he wrote in 2015 detailing the ways in which the United States was not prepared for "the next epidemic." At the time he penned it, more than 10,000 people had died in an Ebola outbreaks in West Africa. Adequate vaccines were not produced until after the peak of the crisis, according to the World Health Organization.

"What I've learned is very sobering," Gates wrote. "As awful as this epidemic has been, the next one could be much worse. The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease—an especially virulent flu, for example—that infects large numbers of people very quickly. Of all the things that could kill 10 million people or more, by far the most likely is an epidemic."

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