WASHINGTON - Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates said Sunday that the Regeneron antibody cocktail administered to President Trump to treat a case of COVID-19 shouldn't be referred to as a "cure."
"The word 'cure' is inappropriate because it doesn't work for everyone," Gates told NBC's "Meet the Press." "But yes, of all the therapeutics, this is the most promising."
Although an effective vaccine is an ultimate goal for putting an end to the pandemic, Gates noted that monoclonal antibodies allow for treatment that doesn't require admission to a high percentage of the population.
"With the monoclonal antibodies, it's only once somebody tests positive, show symptoms and they're old enough they're at risk," Gates said. "That's the target for this therapeutic."
He added that if the monoclonal antibody treatments can be approved for an emergency use authorization in a timely manner, they will "save more lives than the vaccine will," particularly if given in low doses.
"The president got eight grams and we're trialing things that are down at more like 0.7 grams, and 0.3 grams," Gates said. "Of course, that changes the cost and capacity a lot but that's also unproven at this point, but it's important that we explore."
Gates is optimistic that antibody treatments, including those developed by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, could potentially earn an emergency use authorization within the next few months, but warned against the president's recent push for the regulators to accelerate the approval timeline.
"You don't want politicians saying something should be approved because it's wrong to think of political pressure as needing to be appropriate in these cases," he said.
As for vaccines, Gates said the majority of vaccines will likely get emergency use authorizations by early next year, with Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine potentially being an exception with a possible authorization by the end of this year.
"The phase three data is the key thing, particularly for the safety, making sure we're not seeing side effects. So the tool is ramping up and, over the course of the first half of the year, those volumes will get to the point where we really will be asking Americans to, you know, step forward," Gates said. "The effectiveness could range, you know, could be as low as 50% or as high as 80 [percent] or 90% and, different of the vaccines, some will fail completely and others will hit a very high bar. But we don't know yet."
He added that almost all of the vaccines will most likely require two shots, with the potential exception of Johnson and Johnson, which is currently conducting phase three trials of their vaccine candidate involving a single dose.
Despite taking issue with the United States' response to the pandemic, Gates believes there is still hope to turn things around and that the focus should be less on assessing blame and focusing on getting the diagnostics right.
"Don't say that the FDA is being pressured to do something so that their integrity is clear cut," Gates added. "And then, you know, on the vaccine front, get it to everyone with the right message, including get it to the world so the disease isn't constantly coming back in our country."
He believes that the only way to get back to normal is by having a vaccine that is "super effective and that a lot of the people take" and can be distributed to the entire world in order to eliminate the disease on a global basis.
Gates' comments come as the coronavirus has surpassed 37 million cases worldwide, with more than 7.7 million cases impacting the United States alone. According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 1 million related deaths worldwide, with the United States accounting for more than 214,000 of them.
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