Worldwide herd immunity against COVID-19 should not be expected until 2022, according to billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates.
Gates, who co-founded The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with her husband, said that she was encouraged by the signs of progress in the fight against the vaccine, but warned there was a long way to go.
‘It will probably be sometime out in 2022, quite frankly, that as a globe we have enough vaccine out there,’ she told CNBC on Monday.
‘Particularly the single dose vaccines, you are seeing some of them be approved now, the ones that don’t need the extreme refrigeration – those will begin to go out into the developing world en masse at the end of this year and the beginning of next year.
‘So it will be some time in 2022 that we have full herd immunity.’
Melinda Gates appeared on CNBC on Monday evening to discuss progress in vaccinations
Sixty million people in the United States have had at least one of their COVID vaccinations so far, according to CDC data on Monday, representing 18.1 per cent of the population.
Among the over 65s, who are considered the most vulnerable, 65.3 per cent have been vaccinated.
Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the aim is to vaccinate between 70 per cent and 85 per cent of the U.S. population – 232-281 million people – to achieve herd immunity and suppress the pandemic.
Gates praised the pharmaceutical firms for ‘doing an amazing job,’ noting how some pharmaceutical companies were even having their own vaccine manufactured by other rival firms.
‘Those are new collaborations, we have never seen before,’ she said.
Gates is pictured in May 2016 at the Women Deliver Conference in Copenhagen
She said the U.S. government was ‘stepping up even more more,’ and described the difference in urgency between the Trump and Biden administrations as being ‘night and day’.
‘Is it perfect, absolutely not,’ she said.
‘But in most states, 15 per cent of the population has been covered.
There is more testing, and more hope.’
Meghan Fitzgerald, an investor and healthcare policy professor at Columbia University, told Yahoo Finance that she broadly agreed with Gates’ assessment.
She said she expected to see herd immunity in the U.S. ‘on the back end of the summer,’ adding: ‘I’m not as bullish on the front end, just because of the logistics, just because of the distribution.’
She said: ‘This virus doesn’t go away if we only address parts of the United States or even just the United States. This is a global pandemic. The virus doesn’t know borders.
‘And it doesn’t self select, except for the very most at risk. And that is our seniors.’
Bill and Melinda Gates are pictured visiting a South African township in October 2019
And in California, an expert was warning that a fourth wave may be possible.
Dr George Rutherford, an epidemiologist and infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco, told The Los Angeles Times that he estimates roughly 67 per cent of a population needs immunity to COVID-19 to obtain herd immunity.
He warned that mask mandates were being lifted too soon in some states, and people were at risk of becoming lax with social distancing.
Variants of the virus also gave cause for concern.
Rutherford warned that California was particularly vulnerable to a fourth wave, because only 26-39 per cent of the state had immunity, versus a nationwide average of 40 per cent.
He said last week, according to the paper, that California’s figure was lower than the national average ‘because we haven’t had so much infection and, as a result, have not had as much naturally acquired immunity.’