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Melinda Gates on her mission to fight COVID-19 and how conspiracy theories "cause more death"

Melinda Gates on global health in a pandemic
Melinda Gates discusses annual letter from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 05:51

For decades, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have been using their influence and wealth to advance health care worldwide. In December, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it had committed an additional $250 million to support the research, development and equitable delivery of lifesaving tools in the global effort against COVID-19. To date, the foundation has invested $1.75 billion in the fight against COVID-19. 

On Wednesday the Gates released its foundation's annual letter, calling on world leaders to put women at the center of their COVID-19 response. 

Melinda Gates told "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King in an interview Wednesday that the pandemic and recession affect women differently and governments are not extending economic lifelines to women.

"During this year of COVID in the United States, women have lost a million more jobs than men. And that's because they hold, quite often, the low-wage jobs, those service industries that we're not using. But also, a huge piece of it is the childcare that they're doing at home," Gates said.

She also addresses vaccine conspiracy theories and misinformation surrounding Bill Gates on social media. Gates said she's heard the theories and is calling on tech companies and platforms to look at and address the false information that can have fatal repercussions.

Read her full interview below:

"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King: You know when I read the letter and based on the work that you've done, is there a part of you all that's going, "We told you so. We told you we need to pay attention to this."

Melinda Gates: Well, we try not to look back in that way too much. It's just not constructive.

King: Bill and Melinda Gates are no stranger to pandemics. It's something that you all have studied for a long time... you've been saying for many years that global health is local health. And COVID-19 certainly proved to be the case of that. What did you mean?

Gates: Well, I think this is a disease that we're living through, that we never heard of before and most people haven't ever traveled to a place called Wuhan and yet here it is in our own backyard. And we're all experiencing a global health that's come local to our own communities.

King: But were you surprised that we were not prepared for this?

Gates: Yes... So we had been calling on the world for quite some time to prepare for a pandemic...and not nearly enough governments took it seriously.

King: Why do you think, Melinda, we didn't take it seriously?

Gates: I think sometimes we're short-sighted... and we tend to forget about disease until it hits us in our homes and on our doorsteps.

King: How did COVID-19 exploit some pre-existing conditions that we were all dealing with?

Gates: Well, those gaps in society were already there. But a lot of times, we just didn't want to look at them. We didn't want to look at how are the health centers treating African Americans when they go into the health center? Why don't Latinos wanna go in the health care center? ... It's exposed the systematic racism that's been there all along and the inequities for women.

King: Women seem to be paying a bigger price too?

Gates: Absolutely ... And during this year of COVID-19 in the United States, women have lost a million more jobs than men. And that's because they hold, quite often, the low-wage jobs, those service industries that we're not using. But also, a huge piece of it is the childcare that they're doing at home.

King: You're calling on world leaders that, when it comes to the COVID response, women should be at the frontlines of that. Why?

Gates: Because when we put women at the center they take care of everyone else so they are 70% of the health care workforce. They are the central person in the family, quite often, taking care of the children, taking care of the invest in women and they invest in everywhere else.

King: You have expressed some concern that the vaccine rollout has gone so poorly. What happened?

Gates: You have to do coordinated planning for that. That didn't happen because the previous administration sidelined the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control.

King: Do you have more confidence that the Biden administration will do a better job when it comes to the vaccine rollout?

Gates: I do. I mean, we're already seeing the signs of that. I see it in my own backyard in Seattle.

King: Bill Gates is 65. He got a vaccine. How's he doing?

Gates: He did and he had no problem with it.

King: You know, even Bill Gates became part of the conspiracy theories. It, it's so crazy that Bill Gates put microchips in the vaccines in order to control people. Did you hear that wackadoodle theory?

Gates: I certainly heard many of those conspiracy theories...that disinformation causes more death. It causes people not to do the right things.

King: How does something like that take hold, that somebody can actually believe that?

Gates: If you take up one conspiracy theory on the internet, we now know these social media platforms will serve up many, many more. And so people start do go down those dark holes.

King: Do you think that social media has a responsibility to make sure that those things are not put online?

Gates: I absolutely think social media... the tech companies and platforms need to look at these issues and address them. ... It's time to have more government regulation over the social platforms, so we don't get these conspiracy theories that cause more death.

King: The letter included at one point what many saw was an ominous warning. You suggest that we should prepare, not by training in war games for pandemics, but playing out so-called "germ games." What does that mean?

Gates: Yes. You would do several...

King: Do you believe there will be another pandemic? 

Gates: Well, there will be other emergent viruses that we've never seen as a globe. And it's up to us as a world of do we prepare so those diseases stay contained...have emergency response centers, have an early warning system...and then yes, one thing we need to do is to run germ games. Those are all things we can do to be prepared so we don't have a global outbreak.

King: In your letter, you say, "When it comes to COVID, it's really the end of the beginning."

Gates: Yeah, it's what Winston Churchill said during the world war. ... You know, it's still gonna take another good, solid 18 months for the rest of the world, for everybody who needs vaccine to get it. ... But we are starting to have the light at the end of the tunnel...and that's encouraging.

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