June 23, 2020
While the COVID-19 pandemic seems like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the sobering truth is that another pandemic could hit at any time. We don't know the severity or the impact that the next pandemic will have on our health and our economies, but we do know we can be better prepared this time around.
Bill and Melinda Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have been using their resources to combat the coronavirus. They've also been accumulating resources and preparing for the next pandemic. It is clear that the United States, along with the rest of the world, was not prepared for the coronavirus. But with a few adjustments, we can ensure every country is better prepared to prevent and treat the next pandemic, they said in a conversation with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
There Will Be a Next Pandemic, and We Need to Be Prepared for It
“Pandemics can come from natural causes, which is largely coming across from other species,” Bill Gates said. “[Influenza], for example, is still a very big risk, and so we'll have to invest in making sure that we catch the disease sooner and that we have platforms to make diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines very quickly.”
Gates noted that this time around, very little was invested to tackle the pandemic. The major reason why COVID-19 impacted the world so significantly was that many countries were not equipped to handle the global health crisis. By the time the virus reached those respective countries, they were playing catch-up to fight it.
“People trust government to think through these eventual bad things,” Gates said. “This was a failure to get ready.”
The unfortunate part of this experience, that can be used as a lesson for the next pandemic, is that it costs little to prepare — yet we still failed to do so.
“The cost would have been tiny compared to, say, what we spend on being ready for war,” Gates said.
Going forward, by having plans for nursing homes, factories, and testing sites that are professionally researched and ready to execute at a moment's notice, we can significantly reduce the impact of another pandemic. We know this to be true because of the examples set by other countries that did act fast and have proper protocols in place.
“The testing could have been ramped up very quickly,” Gates said. “A few countries that have almost avoided the epidemic entirely like Taiwan, New Zealand, [and] Australia … took their experience and actually prepared — and so they moved a lot faster.”