The flu vaccine “isn’t that effective” in older people so vaccines for COVID-19 will have to be different, according to Bill Gates.
“The efficacy of vaccines in older people is always a huge challenge. Turns out the flu vaccine isn’t that effective in elderly people. Most of the benefit comes from younger people not spreading it because they’re vaccinated and that benefits on a community basis the elderly,” Gates said during an interview with CNBC.
“Here we clearly need a vaccine that works in the upper age range because they’re most at risk of that.”
Vaccine researchers are working to try to create a vaccine that “works in older people” but doesn’t have any side effects, Gates added.
Most vaccines being created are expected to be available next year if they pass through a gamut of tests. It’s possible ones using messenger RNA, a genetic platform, could be ready before earlier than others.
Researchers want to be cautious because they expect the vaccine to be injected into people across all age ranges, including pregnant women, undernourished individuals, and people with co-morbidities, or underlying health conditions, Gates told CNBC.
Understanding that projected widespread adoption, “it’s very, very hard, and that actual decision to say, ‘let’s go and give that vaccine to the entire world,'” Gates said. “Governments will have to be involved because there will be some risk and indemnification needed before that can be decided on.”
Gates appeared to be referring in part to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which was created to largely release vaccine manufacturers from liability for vaccine-related injuries or deaths. The no-fault program gives payouts to people who can prove they or people under their care were injured or killed from vaccines.
Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the nonprofit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is funding seven different efforts to develop vaccines.
“Because our foundation has such deep expertise in infectious diseases, we’ve thought about the epidemic, we did fund some things to be more prepared, like a vaccine effort. Our early money can accelerate things,” he said during an appearance on “The Daily Show” on April 2.
“Even though we’ll end up picking at most two of them, we’re going to fund factories for all seven, just so that we don’t waste time in serially saying, ‘OK, which vaccine works?’ and then building the factory.”
“The vaccine is critical, because, until you have that, things aren’t really going to be normal. They can open up to some degree, but the risk of a rebound will be there until we have very broad vaccination,” he said.
Once a vaccine is developed, it needs to be cheap, Melinda Gates, Gates wife, told Business Insider.
“We have to make sure that the vaccine is very low priced and that there’s a fund for buying it for everyone, whether you’re in a low-, middle-, or a high-income country,” she said.
Healthcare workers should get the vaccine first, followed by people in high-risk groups, such as people with underlying health conditions.