Bill Gates stated that a global research effort in excess of tens to billions of dollars is necessary to prepare the world for the next pandemic.
Microsoft founder Steve Ballmer stated that the coronavirus caused economic destruction and death tolls should be enough to fund research into vaccines and treatments.
Gates spoke with Jeremy Hunt, the former UK health secretary, to discuss research and development budgets. He said that research and development should be focused on the weaknesses created by Covid's rapid spread around the globe. We didn't have vaccines to stop transmission. He said that vaccines that protect your health but not transmission were available. There is a better way to do vaccines.
Covid vaccines partly block the transmission of the virus, but they are more effective in preventing severe diseases. According to the government's Sage committee, protection against infection is about 65% after two shots with AstraZeneca, and 75% after two shots with Pfizer. Both vaccines offer approximately 95% protection against hospitalisation. However, immunity decreases over time.
Gates continued to complain about the lack of effective treatment options for Covid. He said that although the steroid dexamethasone, and the antiviral drug molnupiravir might help, therapeutics had far less impact than they should have. Gates also criticized the inability to have diagnostic testing running, to the point where it could significantly reduce death rates.
Gates warned in a Ted Talk in 2014 that the world wasn't ready for the next pandemic. He said he wanted to write a book within five years about how the world is now prepared. He said that it will take many billions to develop and research, and perhaps a billion per year to create a pandemic taskforce at WHO [World Health Organization] levels.
The WHO taskforce would conduct pandemic surveillance, run what Gates called germ-games where countries practice responses to events that could trigger the next crisis. For example, a bioterrorist spreading smallpox at 10 airports.
Gates stated that bioterrorism could have caused epidemics or even worse than the ones we are currently experiencing. Yet, medical science has made it possible to do much more. This would seem to be a top priority. These allocations will have to be made in the next year, which includes this taskforce on global pandemics.
Gates said that vaccines were expensive and needed to be manufactured in large quantities. He also suggested that eradicating the common cold and influenza was a major part of preparations for the next pandemic. He said that vaccines could be as simple as a small patch on your arm. They would still be extremely beneficial, even if there was a pandemic.
Gates stated that pandemic preparedness will be a topic I'll be discussing a lot along with the climate message, and the ongoing fight against the diseases of the poor. It will be a good topic because we have lost billions of dollars and millions of people. Citizens expect their governments to prevent that from happening again.