Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


March 18, 2021


This week’s Path Forward event highlighted the need for the private sector and governments to work together to prevent future pandemics.

The Path Forward is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation event series designed to help business and community leaders find the answers they need to execute a responsible reopening strategy and plan for a post-pandemic world.

What happened?: Three leaders in the health and technology sectors joined U.S. Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark to discuss how to prepare for and mitigate future pandemics, also known as “Disease X.”

The experts emphasized the need to improve data sharing, push back against misinformation, and deploy rapid testing for novel diseases.

What the experts say:

  • “Make sure that if you can get your vaccine, that you do—and encourage your loved ones to do the same.” – Suzanne Clark
  • “I think we’re going to be soon in a place where the problem is not a lack of supply, but to make sure we encourage the demand, particularly from those individuals who are still reticent to take advantage of this. We need to encourage everybody to take part in this vaccination opportunity in order to reach herd immunity.” – Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health
  • “We have made progress in this country, and in this world, based upon evidence. Figuring out what’s really true and what is not. To have a circumstance arise where facts often seem to fall in the face of opinion—oftentimes something that turns up in social media—is not a pathway that’s going to be good…Evidence matters.” – Dr. Francis Collins
  • “Detection of an epidemic, or an emerging epidemic, is very difficult because it may come from anywhere and be anything.” – Dr. Tara O’Toole, executive vice president and senior fellow at In-Q-Tel
  • “We can get much better at detecting small clusters of similar infections before they become large epidemics, let alone pandemics, and stopping them in their tracks. To do that, we need a number of tools starting with rapid, point-of-care diagnostics.” – Dr. Tara O’Toole
  • “Our big failing in this epidemic…has been in data. In America, we have a very fragmented health system. Public health is fragmented by state, county, and local jurisdictions. And bringing accurate data together in something close to real-time, so that we have situational awareness, we know what’s going on…has been our big Achilles heel. That’s going to need a lot of attention in the future.” – Dr. Tara O’Toole
  • “We designed a program to beef up the equipment, the capabilities of all these labs and institutions that are already linked, to give them the ability to be sharper and faster in the early identification of pathogens.” – Dr. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Our take:It’s vital that Americans get vaccinated once supplies become available for their group. The approved vaccines are safe, widely available, and help protect you, your family and others—so make getting one a priority. For more information on COVID-19 vaccination in your area, contact your local health department.

And don’t forget—wearing a mask and social distancing make a big difference in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus.

Up next: Please join future Path Forward events to learn how to better protect you workers, customers, coworkers, and friends from the spread of coronavirus.

Additional resources:

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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