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Bill Gates Says the World Will Return 'to Normal' by 2022. Is He Right?

Low-income countries might need a new normal.

The world as we knew it before COVID-19 should return by the end of 2022 because of COVID-19 vaccines, said Bill Gates during an interview with the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and local television broadcaster TVN24.

"This is an incredible tragedy," remarked the Microsoft co-founder about the unspeakable damage from the global pandemic, who also observed that the only good news available was the increased availability of vaccines.

"By the end of 2022 we should be basically completely back to normal," added Gates to the Polish newspaper.

But, is he right?

Bill Gates' philanthropic entity has committed $1.75 billion to COVID-19 efforts

Gates is a billionaire who stepped down as chairman of Microsoft in 2014 — since which he's funneled money to less fortunate populations via the philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As of writing, the entity has committed at least $1.75 billion to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included support for vaccine developers, potential treatments, and diagnostics. More than $250 million was committed to the continued development of new vaccines, with $156 million dedicated to the Covax scheme — which aims to ensure vaccines are made available to lower-income countries.

The Covax facility receives funding from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) — and aims to acquire two billion doses for lower-income countries by the end of this year.

So far, Covax has negotiated deals for roughly 2.27 billion doses of vaccines this year — but as of early March many of its shots had yet to receive authorization in respective low-income countries or were still in clinical trials. Every vaccine (except Johnson & Johnson's) requires two doses, with some going to self-financing countries. Covax has also asked multiple times for the assistance of richer countries that have already secured enough vaccines to innoculate their populations for vaccine donations.

Low-income countries could be left behind rich countries amid COVID-19 recovery

Additionally, the U.K. and Canada have said they'd offer surplus doses, with similar pledges from Norway and France, the latter of whom called on European countries to lend support. Mid-February, the White House pledged $4 billion to the Covax vaccine initiative, but it's difficult to say whether this international effort will succeed in bringing the entire world out of the COVID-19 crisis by the end of 2022.

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Gates' new comments come only weeks after he said in a Clubhouse-based interview that he imagined people might look at changing their behavior "in a significant way" this Spring or Summer, according to a CNBC report. Whether this has come to pass in rich countries is arguable, but — historically — basic human needs have remained unmet for communities in many low-income countries for decades if not centuries — where the precarious realities of living, eating, and working remaining far below the poverty level of richer countries like the United States.

Some pretty wild theories about Gates' role in the pandemic have argued that the coronavirus crisis is actually a global cover story to implant microchips in people via vaccines. But while the notions of microchip vaccines remain totally baseless, you don't have to believe in conspiracy theories to suspect that a world "completely back to normal" in late 2022 won't feel like an improvement to people and communities in, say, Africa.

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