The founder and CEO of Microsoft’s Gates Foundation has invested millions into coronavirus vaccine research since the pandemic began. As more mutations and variants appear around the world, Mr Gates has warned more than two vaccine doses may be needed to stop serious cases of coronavirus.
In an interview with CBS, Mr Gates said pharmaceutical companies are already looking into issuing more doses to counter variants of coronavirus.
He said to anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell: “The discussion now is do we just need to get a super high coverage of the current vaccine, or do we need a third dose that’s just the same, or do we need a modified vaccine?
“All five of the companies that have US vaccines are looking at making that modification and adding that in so that people who’ve already had two shots might need to get a third shot.
“I think it’s reasonably likely that we will have a tuned vaccine just to make absolutely sure that as these variants hit the US that they’re not escaping from vaccine protection.”
Mr Gates then shared his foundation was financing research in South Africa on whether the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines were as effective against the South African and Brazilian variants.
In a worrying sign, he said: “AstraZeneca in particular has a challenge with the variant.
“And the other two, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, are slightly less effective, but still effective enough that we absolutely should get them out as fast as we can while we study this idea of tuning the vaccine.”
Mr Gates also suggested additional COVID-19 shots may be needed if the virus is not eradicated and added: “Probably not yearly, but as long as it’s out there, we want as many Americans as possible not to be spreading it to each other.”
Edward Argar, Tory MP for Charnwood and Minister of State for Health, also suggested it “would not be unreasonable” to bring in annual booster doses to protect against new coronavirus strains.
He said to Sky News: “What we would all expect is every year we have our flu booster jabs, or our flu jabs, it would not be unreasonable to suggest something similar here.”
Mr Argar then said the virus “will always try to outwit us” and added: “We’ve just got to make sure we get ahead of the game and we outwit it.”
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi echoed Mr Argar’s comments and suggested jabs to protect against Covid could be offered every year, depending on which variant is prevalent at the time.
He told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “We see very much probably an annual or booster in the autumn and then an annual (jab), in the way we do with flu vaccinations.”
The Microsoft CEO recently called conspiracy theorists about coronavirus as “crazy” and “evil”.
In another interview with ABC’s 7 .30 with Leigh Sales, he said the spread of theories about vaccines are “tragic if they prevent people from wearing masks or be willing to take the vaccine as it becomes available”.
He added: “There are some things that are so extreme in terms of anti-vaccine or holocaust denial that you can draw a line, but how you draw that line and who is put in charge of that …
“I’m not proposing solutions to that … I still haven’t seen a good solution.”
The UK achieved its first vaccine milestone this weekend, with more than 15 million people offered their first dose of a coronavirus jab.
As of yesterday, 15,940,972 people have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine and 558,577 people have received their second.
Another 12,718 cases and 738 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test were recorded in the UK yesterday.
In total, the UK has reported 4,071,185 cases and 118,933 deaths.