Technology

Bill Gates warns future pandemics could be even worse than Covid


Microsoft founder-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum in London. (AFP)

If your knowledge of Bill Gates is limited to him being the guy who founded Microsoft and then started working for charity, there’s a lot to catch up on.

Gates heads up the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dedicated to ridding the world of nasty diseases like Polio, Malaria and Ebola.

As a result, he’s pretty well versed in pandemics and health issues across the world. And, he actually saw Covid-19 coming before it hit.

Now he’s saying the next one will be even worse.

The foundation has just pledged $150 million (£110 million) to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI). The money is going towards helping to fight against Covid and also prepare for any future pandemics we may encounter.

CEPI is partly responsible for the intiative to distribute Covid vaccines across the developing world and it also funded development of the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

‘Those vaccines made a huge difference, saving lots of lives and getting out very quickly,’ Mr Gates told the news agency AFP.

‘But the picture is mixed… we didn’t get the quantity to the developing countries as quickly as we wanted,’

He went on to say that getting vaccines to the poorer nations of the world would require more commitment from the governments of rich countries.

Mr Gates urged governments to offer billions to prevent the spread of future pandemics which, he believes, could include fatalities far worse than the coronavirus.

‘It was at-risk money that caused the trials to take place. So there was a huge global benefit. We’re all a lot smarter now. And we need more capacity for the next time,’ he said.

What did Bill Gates say about pandemics in 2015?

Addressing a TED Talk five years ago, Gates, 64, warned the next ‘global catastrophe’ would not be caused by war, but by a virus.

He said: ‘If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war – not missiles, but microbes.’

‘Part of the reason for this is we have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents, but we’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic.

‘We’re not ready for the next epidemic.’

Citing the Ebola outbreak, he highlighted how the world was ‘far slower than we should have been’ due to the lack of personnel and epidemiologists ready to go, describing it as a ‘global failure.’

In a 2017 op-ed for Business Insider, Gates reinforced this message, saying a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill tens of millions of people in a worst-case scenario.

‘Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year, he wrote.

‘And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years.’


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