Gates says that we need factories that can make a new vaccine in 100 days.

As the US government prepares to roll out booster doses for those who are vaccinated, the entire continent of Africa has managed to administer only a few doses more than what the state of California has already administered.

It is such inequities in response to the pandemic that has urged Bill Gates to say that the world is not ready for the next pandemic, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported. 

Invest more in healthcare systems

Gates was speaking to the outlet after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he is the co-chair, released its annual report. Titled 'Goalkeepers', the report tracks indicators across various areas such as health, education, prosperity to realise sustainable development across the world.

Over the last two years, the report has also been studying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world and its progress towards sustainable development. 

Citing the example of massive differences in completed vaccinations, Gates told the WSJ that the world needs factories that can make a new vaccine in 100 days and then be able to produce enough doses for the entire world in the next 100 days if we want to be prepared for the next pandemic.

He also called for nations to invest more in healthcare systems and highlighted three major responses to fight COVID-19, something he had done in 2015, as well. 

The report also highlights the inequities in prosperity, education, and employment that were seen across the world that is recovering from the pandemic. The Foundation estimates that 33.9 million people fell into extreme poverty during the pandemic, with 26.6 million of them being in Sub-Saharan Africa.

As high-income countries slowly return to pre-pandemic normal, per capita incomes will also rise again in these countries. However, the economies of only one-third of low and middle-income countries will recover affecting per-capita incomes and keeping 700 million people in poverty till the turn of this decade, the report says. 

The pandemic has affected women and children disproportionately when compared to men. According to the estimates, while men are expected to return to their regular jobs globally, more than 13 million women who were employed in 2019, will not. 

And it's not looking bright for the children. Vaccination rates in children for communicable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis fell to levels last seen in 2005. A total of 30 million children missed their vaccinations last year and it is likely that they will not catch up, the report says. In-school education for older children was also affected.

Sadly, in the US alone, children in high-poverty schools showed more learning loss than those in low-poverty schools. Black and Latino children lost more learning opportunities than their white or Asian-American counterparts, the report said. 

To better prepare for the next pandemic, the report has called for investments in women and children programmes along with long-term policies that help strengthen communities, in addition to improvisation of healthcare systems and vaccine research funding.  

Why some people gain 'superhuman' immunity to Covid

Separately, scientists now know why some people gain 'superhuman' immunity to COVID-19, it has been revealed. These individuals were first infected with COVID-19 and then vaccinated against it. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a lot of things. From how easy it is to work remotely to how quickly vaccines can be fast-tracked, and from how long it takes for a cure to be found to why some people just seem immune to COVID.

Recent studies have shown that some individuals display superhuman responses to the disease. These individuals not only have high levels of antibodies against the virus but also show a spectrum of antibodies that can neutralize different variants too. A non-peer-reviewed study, claims to have found the reason for this 'superhuman' ability. 

Many countries in the West managed to rapidly inoculate the population against COVID-19. However, newer variants of the virus, such as the Delta, managed to break through, even in vaccinated individuals, raising concerns about the vaccine's efficacy against the evolving virus and the need to introduce booster doses. Studying individuals who can counter a wide range of viral variants can help develop further strategies to contain the disease. 

The study conducted at Rockefeller University in the US found that the individuals who displayed these traits had one thing in common. They were first infected by the virus and then inoculated when the vaccines became available.

The antibodies produced by these individuals offered a sort of 'hybrid immunity' that was not only effective against six variants of SARS-CoV-2 but also its predecessor, the SARS-CoV-1, and other viruses found in bats, pangolins that could potentially become infectious in humans too, NPR reported.

According to Theodora Hatziioannou, one of the authors of the study, the SARS-CoV-1 is very different from the virus that causes COVID-19, and yet these antibodies worked against it.

Engineered virus that carried 20 mutations

Probably the ultimate test of these antibodies was an engineered virus that carried 20 mutations that are known to help the virus evade the immune system. While this engineered virus managed to survive against antibodies of people who were only infected or only vaccinated, it could not survive antibodies of people who had 'hybrid immunity'.  

Does this mean that the best way to become immune to the virus, is to first get infected and then vaccinated? The authors of the study, definitely do not advise that. The study just included 14 participants and it would not be advisable to draw guidelines for the general population based on such a small number. 

Another pre-print published last month showed that individuals who had not been infected with the SARS virus before demonstrated some flexibility after receiving two doses of the COVID vaccine. Hatziioannou told NPR, that she expects antibodies in individuals who receive a booster (third) dose to show a broader response, if not a superhuman one, eventually allowing us to get an upper hand over the virus.