Coronavirus stimulus is ‘the best opportunity’ to help get the world vaccinated: Bill Gates [Video]

There’s a worldwide race to develop and test a workable coronavirus vaccine. And Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates hopes an area you might not expect — the never-ending stimulus negotiations Washington, DC — will be key in helping in the effort.

In a conversation with Andy Serwer for Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit this week, Gates said “the stimulus bill is the best opportunity” to get funding approved. The billions requested — he notes — could represent “less than 1% of the [overall] stimulus bill.”

Gates has been trying to secure those billions for a group called Gavi. That organization and a similar organization called the Global Fund “have spent two decades becoming experts in the task of financing vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics,” Gates recently wrote.

See also: Bill Gates slams Trump’s COVID-19 adviser as ‘pseudo-expert’ who’s ‘off-the-rails’

The Microsoft co-founder’s efforts have gained momentum even as the Trump administration had shied away from a leadership position in other areas of the global response to COVID-19.

‘We’re hopeful’

While gridlock in Washington has recently stalled stimulus talks, both parties have been responsive to greater U.S. involvement in funding a coronavirus vaccine.

The Republican stimulus proposal from July — known as the HEALS act — included $3 billion “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, which shall be made available for a United States contribution to The GAVI Alliance.” Funding for Gavi was not directly included in the Democrats’ proposal — known as the CARES Act — though House Democrats have passed legislation to create a Coordinator for Global Health Security.

Co-chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, speaks to the gathering during the inauguration of the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in New Delhi, India on 18 November 2019. (Photo by Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Bill Gates speaks to the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in India in 2019. (Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Gates notes that both Republicans and Democrats are now on the record for helping “and so we’re hopeful when there is a stimulus bill, which of course is not totally clear, that it will include this money.”

With the U.S. focused on a presidential election and Congress largely gridlocked, “the people in the Congress who support these things have decided that [the stimulus bill] is the most likely way for something to get done,” Gates said.

A push for the money ‘for our own self-interest’

While Gates is best known for his past role at Microsoft, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has long been a central player in the world’s public health debates and response from diseases like HIV to H1N1 and now COVID-19. The Gates foundation itself has currently pledged over $350 million to the global coronavirus response.

In February, the Trump administration had promised to commit $1.16 billion to Gavi over fiscal years 2020-2023. Estimates of the total cost to manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine to the 2 billion poorest people in the world have ranged somewhere between $12 billion and $16 billion. 

UNSPECIFIED LOCATION - APRIL 18: In this screengrab, (L-R) Melinda Gates and Bill Gates speak during "One World: Together At Home" presented by Global Citizen on April, 18, 2020. The global broadcast and digital special was held to support frontline healthcare workers and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization, powered by the UN Foundation. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen )
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates during “One World: Together At Home” in support of frontline healthcare workers in April. (Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen )

Gavi gathered in June and raised

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Fitness: Exercise is a golden opportunity for older adults

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Another unexpected finding is that peak oxygen uptake, a measure of cardiovascular fitness, showed no age-related decline over the course of the study. This is good news for older exercisers, as a decline in peak oxygen uptake is typical in this age group and is associated with an increased risk of premature death and coronary heart disease.

The bottom line is that there are a number of options for older adults who want to reap all the health benefits physical activity has to offer. It’s also clear that for active older adults, judging the effectiveness of a workout by its length or intensity isn’t a good practice.

“The central implication is that either shorter-duration vigorous physical activity or longer-duration moderate physical activity or a combination of the two, that amount to the same amount of work each week, will have the same favourable health outcomes, with vigorous physical activity being the time-efficient alternative,” stated the researchers.

So go ahead and pick the workout of your choice — or better yet, mix it up between all three routines featured in this study. For older adults, not only does exercise have the potential to mitigate several of the negative health conditions associated with aging, it can truly make the latter decades of life golden.

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COVID-19 a New Opportunity for Suicide Prevention

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic poses clear threats to mental well-being, but an increase in suicide is not inevitable if appropriate action is taken, one expert says.

“Increases in suicide rates should not be a foregone conclusion, even with the negative effects of the pandemic. If the lessons of suicide prevention research are heeded during and after the pandemic, this potential for increased risk could be substantially mitigated,” writes Christine Moutier, MD, chief medical officer of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in an invited communication in JAMA Psychiatry.

“This is a moment in history when suicide prevention must be prioritized as a serious public health concern,” she writes.

Mitigating Suicide Risk

Although evidence from the first 6 months of the pandemic reveal specific effects on suicide risk, real-time data on suicide deaths are not available in most regions of the world. From emerging data from several countries, there is no evidence of increased suicide rates during the pandemic thus far, Moutier notes.

Still, a number of pandemic-related risk factors could increase individual and population suicide risk.

They include deterioration or recurrence of serious mental illness; increased isolation, loneliness, and bereavement; increased use of drugs and alcohol; job loss and other financial stressors; and increases in domestic violence.

There are mitigating strategies for each of these “threats to suicide risk.” The science is “very clear,” Moutier told Medscape Medical News.

“Suicide risk is never a situation of inevitability. It’s dynamic, with multiple forces at play in each individual and in the population. Lives can be saved simply by making people feel more connected to each other, that they are part of a larger community,” she added.

The Political Will

Moutier notes that prior to the pandemic, four countries ― Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Australia ― had fully implemented national suicide prevention plans and had achieved reductions in their national suicide rates. However, in the United States, the suicide rate has been steadily increasing since 1999.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released in August 2020 found that 40% of US adults reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, or increased substance use during COVID-19 and that about 11% reported suicidal ideation in the past month, all increases from prior surveys.

COVID-19 presents a “new and urgent opportunity” to focus political will, federal investments, and the global community on suicide prevention, Moutier writes.

“The political will to address suicide has actually moved in the right direction during COVID, as evidenced by a number of pieces of legislation that have suddenly found their way to passing that we’ve been working on for years,” she said in an interview.

One example, she said, is the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law earlier this month by President Donald Trump.

As previously reported, under the law, beginning in July 2022, Americans experiencing a mental health crisis will be able to dial 9-8-8 and be connected to the services

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