Bill Gates outlines strategy to prevent the next pandemic

Bill Gates outlines strategy to prevent the next pandemic

FILE PHOTO: Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a conversation at the 2019 New Economy Forum in Beijing, China Nov 21, 2019. (Reuters)
FILE PHOTO: Bill Gates, Co-Chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a conversation at the 2019 New Economy Forum in Beijing, China Nov 21, 2019. (Reuters)

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates outlined an ambitious plan to stop the next pandemic, calling for a global alert system, massive testing, a cadre of 3,000 “first responders” ready to spring into action and tens of billions of dollars of annual spending.

“To prevent the hardship of this last year from happening again, pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war,” Gates wrote in an annual letter Wednesday. “The world wasn’t ready for the Covid-19 pandemic. I think next time will be different.”

Bill and Melinda Gates, who oversee the Seattle-based Gates Foundation, set their sights on the next crisis as the globe struggles to slow a pathogen that has infected more than 100 million people. Countries -- mainly wealthy ones -- are ramping up vaccine delivery in a race to catch up with the virus.

By the time the next pandemic arrives, Gates said he hopes to see “mega‐diagnostic platforms, which could test as much as 20% of the global population every week.” The overall cost to defend the world sounds huge, though not compared with the $28 trillion estimated cost of Covid-19, he said.

“The world needs to spend billions to save trillions,” he said.

The success of messenger RNA vaccines in combating Covid-19 should pave the way for huge advances over the next five years in the development of new shots, he said. The technology shows potential to one day help overcome diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. The Gates Foundation has invested $1.75 billion in the fight against Covid-19, according to their letter.

One of the significant concerns is the threat of “immunity inequality,” where only rich people have access to vaccines, Melinda Gates wrote.

“Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of disease will keep popping up,” she said. “Those clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices will shut down again. The cycle of inequality will continue.”

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