• Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said he’s worried” about pandemic preparedness.
• In a report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the organization calls for long-term investing in healthcare systems, while addressing vaccine inequality.
• Gates had predicted a pandemic in 2015.
The world hasn’t done enough to prepare for the next pandemic, according to Bill Gates.
The billionaire philanthropist, whose been vocal throughout the pandemic about the U.S. botching nationwide shutdowns and vaccine rollout, offered a grim forecast of the future, saying that we haven’t learned much from the pandemic that has consumed the world for the past 20 months.
“I’m a little worried that the attention to pandemic preparedness is lower than I would have expected,” Gates said in a report from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Why the world isn’t prepared for another pandemic
The report, which was published Monday, calls for countries around the globe to invest long-term in healthcare systems, in addition to addressing vaccine inequalities between high and low-income nations. For example, around 49 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the first half of 2021 in Africa; California accumulated 43 million in that same time frame.
“It seems obvious that in a globalized world, where people and goods move constantly across borders, it’s insufficient for rich countries to be the only ones with the equipment and resources to sequence viruses,” the report reads. “But it took a pandemic to reinforce how important it is to support the ability of low- and middle-income countries to collect and analyze their own data—because it benefits everyone.”
The report added: “Scientific innovation, even at a record-breaking pace, isn’t enough on its own. The COVID-19 vaccines are an amazing feat of R&D, but they are most effective when everyone has access to them. The inequities of the past year remind us that this is far easier said than done.”
During a TED talk in 2015, the Microsoft co-founder warned of the threat of a global pandemic after the Ebola outbreak. At the time, Gates said that technology could be used to contain the spread of a virus and even called for a reserve medical corps similar to the army reserves.
Fast forward six years later, Gates was right. In the foundation’s “Goalkeepers” report, it reiterates the importance of investing in health systems.
“That’s why long-term investments in health systems are so worthwhile: They are the foundation for emergency disease response. We might not have known which specific pathogen would lead to a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, but the tools to end the pandemic are largely the same as for polio or malaria or other infectious diseases: widespread testing and, when possible, fast and effective treatment and lifesaving immunization,” the report said.