The world must arm itself against future health crises, the billionaire reiterated
The World Health Organization is currently the only body that can create and manage a "top-notch" multi-domain team of health experts to detect, prevent and battle future pandemics, the Microsoft co-founder said, bemoaning its underfunding despite beeing the top donor.
With over 6.2 million people estimated to have died from Covid-19 and its comorbidities over the course of the pandemic, it is possible that the world has yet to see the worst, Gates warned in an interview with the Financial Times published on Sunday, just days before his new book, titled 'How to Prevent the Next Pandemic', is set to hit shelves.
"We're still at risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more fatal," Gates warned. While saying he doesn't want to be a "voice of doom and gloom," Gates estimated the risk that "we haven't even seen the worst" of the current pandemic "way above a 5 percent," and emphasized the need to develop new longer-lasting vaccines.
The deep-pocketed philanthropist reiterated his call to establish a global emergency response team operating under the acronym GERM (Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization), with an annual budget of at least $1 billion. Gates said the amount of money needed for the initiative is "very small compared to the benefit," and called it a test of the world leaders' ability to "take on new responsibilities."
Last month he took the stage for a TED Talk in Vancouver to elaborate on the idea, also described in his book, saying he expects the group to comprise at least 3,000 doctors, epidemiologists, policy and communications experts, and diplomats operating under the direction of the WHO.
Gates' book received praise from WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who fully agreed with the software tycoon's insistence that "we must act on Covid-19's lessons and innovate so that we can deliver swift, equitable health solutions to prevent the next pandemic."
While Gates is not a certified medical expert and never even finished college, his massive wealth has allowed him to effectively dominate global health policy via the Gates Foundation as the largest private contributor to the global health body, behind only the US government in terms of funding.
Gates has become a common name in discussions about Covid-19 not only thanks to the millions his foundations has poured into development and distribution of vaccines, but also because of another TED talk from 2015, where the tech mogul first warned the world was unprepared for an "inevitable" global pandemic.