Bill Gates spoke at TED Talk with a proposal to create a new global team to quickly prevent epidemics. He showed statistics on the COVID-19 pandemic and noted that 98% of lives could be saved if the virus was stopped in 100 days.
“Viruses spread exponentially. And so if you get in there when the infection rate is fairly small, you can actually stop the spread,” he said.
Gates claims that people have learned a lot from the current pandemic – enough to build a system of prevention until next time. According to him, COVID-19 could be the last pandemic if the right measures are taken. It’s not just vaccines – you also need to stop the outbreak before you start global vaccination. It may take months for low-income countries to get the resources they need during an outbreak.
“So despite what you see in movies, there is no group of experts standing by to prevent this disaster. So we have to create a new team. I believe we should create what I call the GERM team. Germ stands for Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization. This group is full-time. Their only priority is pandemic prevention. It’s made up of a diverse set of specialists with a lot of different realms of expertise: epidemiologists, data scientists, logistics experts. And it’s not just scientific and medical knowledge. They also have to have communication and diplomacy skills, ” said Bill Gates.
According to him, the cost of the team can be significant – more than a billion a year to keep 3,000 professionals. They will work closely with national teams, depending on the level of government revenue. There should be more of them in low-income countries.
Like firefighters, the GERM team must conduct training to be able to respond quickly. They will work with countries to strengthen their leading health systems. Gates notes that the United States has 370,000 firefighters and 9 million hydrants. The same type of investment, practice and system is needed to stop a pandemic.
At the same time, vaccines can be incredibly useful in killing entire families of viruses. By using the new innovative vaccines properly, you can get rid of the flu and coronavirus.
Gates also stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the gap between rich and poor – survival depended in part on income, race, and the environment in which people lived.
According to him, during the last pandemic there were no people, systems or tools that everyone needed. Now, with the right investment, you can get a whole new generation of tools – better diagnostics, treatment and vaccines. Much of this can be prepared in advance for future use.
“Now, our foundation, the Gates Foundation, is very involved in vaccines, the invention of new vaccines, funding vaccines. And we’re very proud that through joint efforts like GAVI, that saved tens of millions of lives”, Gates said.
On the occasion, he joked about the misinformation about vaccines. There is an irony in saying, “No, they use vaccines to kill people or make money” or “They started a pandemic.”
“Even some strange things like, that I somehow want to track, you know, the location of individuals because I’m so deeply desirous to know where everybody is,” he joked.
Bill Gates hopes that when the pandemic subsides, people will realize that vaccines are a miracle, and much more can be done. He also reminded that in 2015 he had said from this stage that people were not ready. And people were not prepared. Many watched the speech – but 90% did it when it was too late. He hopes the need is clear now.