The 'acute phase' of the Covid-19 pandemic will end in 2022, billionaire Microsoft founder and vaccine enthusiast Bill Gates has predicted on his blog, also deeming the rise of the Omicron variant 'concerning.'
"It might be foolish to make another prediction, but I think the acute phase of the pandemic will come to a close sometime in 2022," the billionaire suggested in a post to his GatesNotes blog.
Pharmaceutical companies have historically had trouble selling the flu shot to populations due to its comparatively low effectiveness rate, which is largely due to scientists having to guess what strain of influenza will be most prevalent in any given year.
Gates, however, is bullish on therapeutics, pointing out that pharmaceutical giant Merck recently received FDA approval for its molnupiravir antiviral for high-risk people. The pill "significantly reduces your chances of being hospitalized or dying from Covid-19 (although not as much as we'd initially hoped)," he said.
The tech mogul acknowledged that despite the rollout and mass uptake of Covid-19 vaccines around the world, more people had died with the virus in 2021 than in 2020, adding that the improvement in the pandemic situation this year had not been as "dramatic" as he'd hoped.
Gates himself can securely rest on his laurels, however, having beefed up his net worth to $137 billion during the pandemic.
The billionaire attempted to bridge the class divide between himself and his readers, declaring 2021 had been "the most unusual and difficult year of his life," while "suspect[ing] a lot of the people reading this might say the same."
Gates called the emergence of the Omicron variant of the virus "concerning," but said the world is "better prepared to tackle potentially bad variants" than it previously was. The South African scientists who discovered the Omicron variant have mostly suggested the symptoms are mild and not a huge cause for concern.
Gates has repeatedly complained about the inequity of vaccine distribution worldwide, calling it the "biggest disappointment" to him during the pandemic and saying it "doesn't make sense" to vaccinate low-risk people before older and vulnerable populations in poorer countries.
His many vaccine-related NGOs have struggled to convince wealthy countries to pony up the funds to vaccinate African nations, many of which have been handling the pandemic better than expected, thanks to longstanding familiarity with cheap and widely-available anti-parasitic and anti-malaria drugs.