Bill Gates calls Omicron a 'type of vaccine,' says it's 'too late' to vaccinate everyone
"It's sad we didn't do a great job on therapeutics," Gates also said.
Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates called the COVID-19 variant omicron a "type of vaccine" that has given immunity to people across the world more quickly than the actual COVID vaccine.
While on a panel Friday at the Munich Security Conference, Gates was asked how he would assess the world's response to the pandemic and his thoughts on future pandemics. He has invested heavily in vaccine research through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"You know, sadly the virus itself, particularly the variant called omicron, is a type of vaccine – that is it creates both B cell and T cell immunity – and it's done a better job of getting out to the world population than we have with vaccines," Gates said.
B cells and T cells assist in providing immunity against COVID-19 even after antibodies may no longer be present, according to the science journal Nature.
Surveys in African nations show that "well over 80 percent of people have been exposed either to the vaccine or to various variants," Gates added.
"It means the chance of severe disease which is mainly associated with being elderly and having obesity or diabetes, those risks are now dramatically reduced because of that infection exposure," he said.
Gates also criticized the slow development of therapeutics to treat COVID.
"It's sad we didn't do a great job on therapeutics. You know, only here two years in do we have a good therapeutic," he said. "Vaccines it took us two years to be in oversupply. Today, there are more vaccines than there are demand for vaccines."
"It took us a lot longer this time than it should have," he said.
Speculating on future pandemics, Gates said that "next time" vaccines and therapeutics should be developed in six months rather than two years.
"We'll have another pandemic. It will be a different pathogen next time," he said.
Gates stated his "aspiration" is to create flu and COVID "eradication" vaccines.
Gates was also asked about the World Health Organization's goal of vaccinating 70% of the world against COVID-19 by mid-2022.
"No, it's too late. I mean, there's a lot of diseases out there," Gates said. "The demand does not exist for that. I mean countries should be able to set priorities."
Gates predicted last month that after Omicron, COVID will "be treated more like seasonal flu" and people will receive "yearly shots."