Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates sketched out an ambitious plan to prevent the next pandemic, insisting on a global alert system, massive testing, tens of billions of dollars of annual spending, and a body of 2,000 "first responders".
In an annual letter released on Wednesday, January 27, titled 'The Year Global Health Went Local', Bill and Melinda Gates wrote that in order to stop the hardships faced last year from happening again, "pandemic preparedness must be taken as seriously as we take the threat of war."
"The world wasn't ready for the COVID-19 pandemic. I think next time will be different," the billionaire couple, who oversee the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, further said as they set their sights on the next crisis whilst the world pants to stem a pathogen that has infected over 100 million people globally.
As the countries, primarily the prosperous ones, are gradually increasing vaccine delivery in a rush to stop the virus, Gates said that by the time the next pandemic arrives, he wishes to see "mega-diagnostic platforms, which could test as much as 20 per cent of the global population every week."
Gates added that the entire cost to safeguard the world sounds huge, though not compared with the $28 trillion approximate cost of COVID-19.
"The world needs to spend billions to save trillions," he noted adding that the success of messenger RNA vaccines in tackling coronavirus should provide a basis for huge advances over the course of the next five years in the development of new shots.
The technology is a potential enabler to one day help defeat diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis, according to the letter, which further added that the Gates Foundation has pumped in $1.75 billion in the fight against COVID-19.
Melinda Gates also wrote that one of the considerable concerns is the threat of "immunity inequality," where only wealthy people have access to vaccines. "Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of disease will keep popping up," she said.
"Those clusters will grow and spread. Schools and offices will shut down again. The cycle of inequality will continue," Melinda Gates added.
Bill Gates, a billionaire who stepped down as chairman of Microsoft Corporation in 2014, has, through his philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, committed at least $1.75 billion to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic that includes support for some makers of vaccines, diagnostics and potential treatments.