A Virtual Debate Between John Norris and Bill Gates Over What Are the Real Current and Future Risks of COVID-19 and Its Variants and Over How Best to Manage Them (Round 3)
A global debate on lessons learned and better new approaches is now raging between and among infectious disease health policy and risk management experts worldwide.
The critical debate sub-topics most often raised by "change advocates" are seven:
First, how could the world have made such a mess of managing the COVID-19 and Its Variants Pandemic?
Second, some experts believe it was possible to avoid many deaths and other physical, mental, psychological, social, and financial harms from COVID-19 and its variants by using a better management approach. Are they right?
Third, how did we not know that using the outdated and failed "top-down approach" of 100 years ago was unacceptable and would only lead to the disasters we see today?
Fourth, what can and must we do immediately?
Fifth, what WE can do, WE must do before the next national and international surge, right? This should be the US and global government and corporate/school pledge, right? This robust surge is already roaring in some places, including India and Brazil. It is just beyond the corner in the US. The immediate tasks: to right the ship, mitigate further harm, and learn from our poorly thought-out prior experience, right?
Sixth, how and must we create and fully launch, deploy, and employ worldwide: far better “infectious disease risk-management safety programs?” These programs must NOT again be simple hit or miss projects. Instead, they must be comprehensive and well-thought-out, and we must stock them with better strategies, methods, and devices, as well as tools, models, and risk-management problem-solving techniques.
Seventh, can we immediately create and quickly deploy a new, far better "bottom-up" approach to employ now, fully, for COVID-19 and its variants, then for the Flu, and then for future pandemics?
11. Bill: The key to stopping COVID-19 is better genetic sequencing and better disease testing (disease surveillance).
John: Right — Better Genetic Sequencing and Better Disease Testing (Disease Surveillance) Are Critical Components of the Solution — Sadly, better, broader, and more thoughtful genetic sequencing for disease surveillance purposes was and still is a tremendous unmet need in the U.S. and worldwide. At the beginning of the COVID-19 and its variants pandemic, experts ranked the U.S. 43rd globally for performing genetic disease surveillance. Largely thanks to the Gates Foundation donating funds, resources were made available to help elevate/advance U.S.' capabilities to perform critical genetic disease surveillance testing. More resources from other sources are needed now, but the Gates Foundation certainly did its part.
12. Bill: The majority of U.S. Citizens will be vaccinated by the end of summer 2021.
John: Probably Wrong — Getting 51% of U.S. Citizens Fully Vaccinated (Two Doses Administered and Actively Immune) at the same time is Unlikely in 2021. Bill made this assumption based on the then-current vaccine inoculation rate, which is now steeply declining. Accordingly, his 51% projection of those fully vaccinated is not at all likely to occur. The rate of U.S. citizens getting vaccinated has declined by 2/3 since a high during last April. It then was approximately 3.2 million shots (half of what is required to be fully vaccinated, i.e., 1.6 million people who are fully vaccinated) per day to around 1 million shots per day. Vaccine hesitancy, anti-vax propaganda, and communication errors, as well as distribution errors, have slowed the rate of inoculation. There is no longer a supply issue in the U.S. like we experienced in early March and April 2021. Bill might have based his assumption/prediction on President Biden's pledge to America that 70 percent of all Americans (eligible for the vaccine) will be vaccinated by July 4, 2021 (yesterday), which has by far missed its mark.
13. Bill: COVAX will deliver 300 million doses by mid-2021 (June 30).
John: Wrong – COVAX (an organization formed to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for all 190 participating economies, using an allocation framework formulated by WHO) Has MISSED This Deadline — While Bill almost certainly had great intentions when he made this pledge, those intentions have fallen far short. Designed and implemented during an unprecedented global public health crisis, by June 30, 2021, COVAX has delivered slightly over 95 million doses to 136 economies around the world–-from remote islands to conflict settings—managing the largest and most complex rollout of vaccines in history. Over 35 countries received their first COVID-19 vaccine doses thanks to COVAX. As of July 2, 2021, COVAX distributed 95 million vaccines (roughly 70% less than Bill's declaration).
14. Bill: COVAX will likely secure 2 billion vaccine doses for lower-income countries by the end of 2021.
John: Almost Certainly Wrong — COVAX Has Small Chance of Meeting This Deadline – With only six months left in 2021, securing 2 billion vaccine doses for lower-income countries by the end of 2021 is virtually impossible. While Bill and COVAX almost certainly had good intentions regarding their pledge to distribute billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, they almost certainly will fall far short. As of July 2, 2021, COVAX only delivered 95 million doses (a small fraction of their 2021 promise) of the COVID-19 vaccine. Just within the last few weeks (June 14, 2021), President Biden pledged to send an additional 500 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to COVAX for distribution. These sources have not yet been sent. Several other countries also pledged to make similar vaccine donations as a result. But altogether, if all of these are, in fact, sent in 2021, it is hard to see how Bill and COVAX will hit even 1 billion doses (half their pledge) sent in 2021.
15. Bill: If 70% of American's get the COVID-19 vaccine, we can stop the pandemic.
John: Likely Right — But Very Unlikely to Happen — I agree with Bill from a scientific point of view that 70% immunity (from prior infection plus vaccination) at any one time (a moving target that is hard to hit) would likely help. But the critical problem we are experiencing in the United States is vaccine hesitancy and a great deal of false information circulating on social media platforms claiming that the vaccine is not "approved" by the FDA. And therefore, the vaccine is still "experimental." Bill and John both know that the FDA is considered the "gold standard" for drug and vaccine approval in the world. And that the FDA did not take any "risky shortcuts" to authorize the three vaccines currently on the market. We need to work together to help the American public become better informed. They need to know that COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA are safe and effective for their intended use. And politicians and others must stop throwing around unexpected, and now very unlikely, achievement of far-off goals to motivate them, a severe mistake now being made by American leaders. Because of the short "immunity life" of current vaccines (believed to be as low as three months and only as long as a year, but most likely seven months), it is extremely difficult to have 70% of all Americans immune (from vaccination and prior infection) at any one time. The window for this possibly happening, even for a few days, is just not that large.
*Bill Gates is a well-known business leader and COVID-19 (and its variants) thought-leader/policy-leader. Bill has publicly spoken or often published his evolving thoughts on the risks associated with COVID-19 and its variants and on how to manage them best.
*John Norris is a lesser-known former FDA leader, Harvard faculty member, business leader, and a SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) thought-leader/policy-leader/risk-management-leader. John, too, has often published his evolving thoughts on the risks associated with COVID-19 (and variants) and on how to manage them better.
In addition, John has formed two companies to better address and begin to resolve the risks:
1. Safely2Prosperity LLC ("S2P"; a company that has designed, verified, and built tailor-made thoughtful and comprehensive "COVID-19 and Its Variants Safety Software Programs");
2. TestProcessOversight LLC ("TPO"; a company that has designed, verified, and is building software to improve the physical utility of infectious disease testing, especially the brilliant new, very low-cost, and high-speed, self-administered tests, significantly); and
Each company addresses a different aspect of the thoughtful and comprehensive risk-management "COVID-19 Safety Program" that John and his Teammates have designed. They will tailor-make this Safety Program for each CEO and Chairman who has brought (or is bringing) their workers or teachers back to work. Others are beginning to follow their lead. Soon, there should be real competition in this space, which John welcomes.
*This paper should NOT be viewed as an attempt by David to slay The Giant. Rather, it should be considered a call for different identification, understanding, and application of the current facts and reasonable assumptions. The goal: so, we might reach new and better conclusions AND thereby invent and adopt far better COVID-19 (and increasingly its variants) risk-management and problem-solving Safety Programs.
The goal of these new programs: to better address and begin to prevent, mitigate, and solve this infectious disease pandemic (COVID-19 and variants), lingering pandemics (the Flu and HIV, for example), and likely future pandemics. In fairness, old ways did make significant dents in polio, T.B., and smallpox, although these diseases are slowly making their way back. It is clear, too, though, that the old ways coupled with closing many economies for a year created much (by far, too much) avoidable harm.
Doing things, the "old top-down way" mainly led to the needless closing of many economies worldwide for a year. (Many countries followed the United States' failed lead.)
This self-destruction was mainly avoidable. Suppose instead, Company CEOs and School Superintendents had immediately and more broadly put in place, especially at high-risk closed-in work facilities, comprehensive "COVID-19 and Its Variants Safety Programs?" Such Programs would include, but would not be limited to, highly organized and managed, high-grade testing and vaccination verification. In that case, businesses and federal, state, and local governments could have saved trillions of dollars.
Instead, it seems that no significant leader seriously looked for better strategies and methods. And they ignored those that John and others frequently brought to their attention. These government and business leaders should have looked deeper before wasting trillions of dollars on a largely ineffective old and outdated "top-down" prevention, mitigation, and problem-solving management approach.
This failure to fully evaluate alternative, more thoughtful, and more comprehensive programs will make a good case study at Harvard Business School and Harvard School of Public Health someday. So why did our leaders like lemmings jump off this cliff, one after another, faster and faster, when there were far better alternatives?
It will be a shame if soon, and in the future, America, and the parts of the world that largely follow America's lead, together, do not learn much from the past year's many errors and successes. Immediately and quickly doing more of the right things and fewer of the wrong things is essential to preventing human deaths and other harms (including people's physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial devastation) and preventing country-wide economic crashes now and in the future.
Lockdowns, themselves, kill and otherwise harm people. Unfortunately, there was little thought given to this fact. Because they are primarily unneeded, they should be used only as last resorts where "COVID-19 and Its Variants Safety Programs" are impractical, which is likely few.
TODAY, a CEO or School Superintendent who failed to support their company's or school system's "Fire Safety Program" would be fired. The same movement is underway in the infectious disease safety program arena.
CEO and School Superintendent firings will especially happen where CEOs order their company's workers and Superintendents order their teachers back to work without a sophisticated "COVID-19 and Its Variants Safety Program." At a minimum, this Program must contain multiple infectious disease spread prevention, mitigation, and problem-solving strategies, devices, tools, and models, including advanced testing and vaccination-passport verification).
These new Safety Programs must be in place—or at least well underway toward being put in place—at the time of the "return-to-work" order. Anything less is reckless conduct, morally, ethically, and legally. America's (and the world's) workers/teachers and consumers/students have suffered enough—in reality, far too much—avoidable harm.