As Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant surge across the world, Bill Gates has warned of pandemics worse than the current one.
His comments came as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and British biomedical charity Wellcome Trust on Tuesday pledged $150m (£109,995) each to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) in the fight against Covid and to prepare for future pandemics.
The philanthropist said that while the Omicron and Delta variants of coronavirus were some of the most transmissive viruses ever seen, the world could have had to face a pathogen causing a far higher rate of fatalities or severe disease.
Gates said the world’s priorities were “strange” and that it had fallen to philanthropists and rich governments to address vaccine inequity.
“When we talk about spending billions to save . . . trillions of economic damage and tens of billions of lives, it’s a pretty good insurance policy,” Gates said.
He added that much of the innovation to prepare for a future pandemic could also be useful in tackling existing global health problems, such as by creating a vaccine for HIV and better shots for tuberculosis and malaria.
Gates said the two big funders of vaccine development during the Covid-19 pandemic, CEPI and the US government, were “brave” to put money at risk to create broad portfolios of potential shots. But he admitted that more needed to be done to increase supplies to vaccinate the world.
“It was at-risk money that caused the trials to take place. So there was a huge global benefit. We’re all a lot smarter now. And we need more capacity for the next time,” he said.