Bill Gates proposes a global team to monitor pandemic outbreaks

Says WHO has less than 10 people working on this.
Ameya Paleja
Bill Gates at a Ted TalkGisela Giardino/ Wikimedia Commons

Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder turned philanthropist, has called for a global response team to be set up to carry out surveillance for pathogens that can potentially ring in the next pandemic, Financial Times reported

Long before COVID-19 struck, Gates warned the world of an imminent pandemic and the need to prepare ourselves to face it. Gates has been vocal about the long delays involved in the vaccine development process and the lack of equity in vaccine distribution in the world. So far, he has also been right about how the COVID-19 pandemic will play out and has pandemic avoiding strategies in his new book. 

How to prevent the next pandemic? 

Gates has urged nations to increase their spending on health and improve coordination between them to mitigate global health threats. Speaking to FT at the launch of this new book, Gates said that countries might lose sight of the health crisis that isn't yet over, in the light of recent developments such as the war in Ukraine. 

Late last year, Gates had said that Omicron might be the worst part of the pandemic and recently told FT that he might sound like the voice of doom; however, it was still within the realms of possibility that the current pandemic might throw up a new variant that was more transmissive and even more fatal. 

To keep a tab on such new threats, Gates has proposed the Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization (GERM) initiative. Consisting of international experts ranging from computer modelers to epidemiologists, the team would identify global threats and increase coordination between countries to counter them.

Led by World Health Organization (WHO)

Gates' proposal for this initiative comes after his statement that the WHO had less than 10 full-time people working on epidemic preparedness, and even those were distracted by other activities. The global health agency has faced flak for its handling of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak and not reacting quickly enough to the risks arising from the spread of the virus. 

Yet, Gates maintained that an initiative like GERM must be overseen by the WHO. Gates told FT that a "top-notch" GERM team might cost around $1 billion to operate every year, but the money was minimal compared to the benefit it offered. Gates also called for an increase in budgetary allocation towards health in national budgets as well as contributions made to the functioning of the WHO. 

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