It’s the Next Pandemic That Worries Bill Gates


Bill Gates would have thought more would have been done by now to make sure the next pandemic doesn’t catch us by surprise. “The attention to pandemic preparedness is lower than I would have expected,” Gates told the Wall Street Journal. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation published a report Monday that lists lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and steps nations need to take to minimize the next health crisis. Existing problems worsened, and new ones surfaced, he said. For example, “Every dimension of inequity—rich versus poor in the US, inner-city schools versus suburban schools, Blacks versus Caucasians, rich countries versus middle-income versus low-income [countries]—this has exacerbated every dimension of inequity that I can think of,” he told Stat News.

The report addresses the need to:

  • Invest in long-term health infrastructure. Vaccination rates for children has dropped to 2005 levels for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.
  • Improve vaccine distribution. In the first half of 2021, 49 million doses of coronavirus vaccines were given in Africa, while 43 million went to California. “The only real solution to this problem is to have factories that can make enough for the entire world in 100 days,” Gates said, “and that is doable.”
  • Counter the effects on poverty. Another 31.3 million people fell into extreme poverty by the end of last year. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty, meaning they live on $1.90 per day, had been dropping. That decline stopped during the pandemic and appears unlikely to resume for years, per CNBC.
  • Gender disparities. Women have lost 13 million more jobs around the world than men have during the pandemic. Some issues apply regardless of national wealth. “Women also bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities across rich and poor world alike,” Gates said. Employment among men is forecast to recover.

“The extreme poverty number in some ways is the most depressing number,” Gates said, who worries about an uneven economic recovery. Wealthy nations will have an easier time recovering, he said, in ways that leave other nations out. “The scary thing is that whenever there’s trouble in rich countries they have a tendency to turn inward,” he added. “I am worried going forward about the debt levels of the low-income countries and the global outlook.” (Women and people of color were more likely to say they’re worse off financially because of the pandemic.)

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