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Gates has been critical about the United States' response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying in a Tuesday interview with The Economist that part of the reason it failed in the beginning was due to slow initial testing efforts and some Americans' refusal to wear masks because "we believe in freedom, individual freedom."
But the country has hope, he said, because he thinks that by 2021, once the Food and Drug Administration approves an effective vaccine, "it will bring the pandemic to an end." He added that even if only 30 to 60% of the population willingly receive a vaccine, that could be enough to slow and eventually stop the spread.
The Microsoft founder also said that the U.S. needs a vaccine that is "inexpensive and highly dispersable," adding that he thinks AstraZeneca is furthest along in bringing such a product to the market.
Gates has been vocal in his thoughts about the country's response to the pandemic, posting frequently on social media and taking part in a number of interviews since the outbreak took off. The billionaire predicted in 2015 that the world was not prepared for a pandemic.
Following his prediction and support for and investments in medicine development and vaccines, his name has been tied to a number of COVID-19 conspiracy theories, with some people saying they believe his stance on vaccines is just a ploy to track billions of people.
A Yahoo/YouGov poll of more than 1,600 U.S. adults conducted online between May 20 and 21 found that 44 percent of Republicans believe the debunked theory that Gates is promoting a COVID-19 vaccine campaign in an effort to implant microchips into people's brains to track their movements. Nearly 20 percent of Democrats said they believed the theory.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $350 million to coronavirus relief and research so far.
Both the Gates and the organization have denied all conspiracy claims. The Foundation states on its website that "vaccines are a powerful tool to fight disease and save lives. Over the past few decades, vaccines have been responsible for the eradication of smallpox and saving people from getting diseases like polio, meningitis, and measles. In some cases, the rate of disease spread has been reduced by more than 90 [percent]."
President Trump and his advisors have said the country can expect a vaccine by the end of 2020 or in 2021.