India’s COVID death toll a bit lower than wealthy countries, says Bill Gates amid row over WHO ‘excess mortality’ report

Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Photo: Times Now

New Delhi: In the midst of a heated debate over the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) report on ‘excess’ COVID-19 deaths in India and globally, Bill GatesFounder of Microsoft and Co-Chairman of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundationsaid on Friday that India’s death toll, “from all the numbers I’ve seen, is much lower than in rich countries.”

“I think India’s death toll, from all the numbers I’ve seen, is a bit lower than rich countries, although there’s still some debate about what those numbers are… India always has a lively debate. It’s a part of vibrant democracy. Eventually people will come to a consensus on these numbers…I’m pushing hard for a lot of R&D, of which India will be a useful part, for a new generation of vaccines that are longer lasting and completely block infection,” Gates said in an exclusive interview with Times Now editor Rahul Shivshankar.

India has done an amazing job: Bill Gates

A day after the WHO report highlighted that India had 4.7 million ‘excess’ deaths for 2020-2021, Gates said India had done an incredible job, not just making vaccines , but also by distributing them to people. “India has better vaccination coverage than the United States,” he said.

It can be noted that the Indian government, like many other countries around the world, has refuted the WHO figures and questioned the methodology for estimating excess deaths from COVID-19.

Gates, who recently wrote a book – How to prevent the next pandemic – noted that the chances of a significantly worse variant of COVID-19 are “pretty low”. He added, however, that people, especially those over 50, should receive booster shots because “we will have additional waves in forms of Omicron circulating in the world”.

“We were surprised by Delta, which of course hit India very hard. We were surprised by Omicron. So we can’t rule out what might happen next. I think the odds of a significantly worse variant are pretty low,” Gates said.

The billionaire businessman and philanthropist also noted that the death rate from COVID-19 is actually quite low, at around 0.3%. “The smallpox was dramatic, at around 30%. We need to be humble and study this much better and have much better tools for the future,” he noted.