Log out
My profile and settings
My bookmarks
Comment history
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
today
This verification token has expired.
today
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
today
Your account has been deactivated. Sign in to re-activate your account.
today
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
today
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
today
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
today
0
0
Back to profile
Comment Items
You have not left any comments yet.
title
in reply to
name
description
Saved Posts
You haven’t bookmarked any posts yet.
“When I give talks about global health, I typically speak about microbes as threats we need to wipe off the map.”
read review
Become a Gates Notes Insider
Sign up
Personal Information
Title
Mr
Mrs
Ms
Miss
Mx
Dr
Cancel
Save
This email is already registered
Cancel
Save
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Cancel
Save
Address
Cancel
Save
Email and Notification Settings
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
On
Off
Send me Gates Notes survey emails
On
Off
Send me the weekly Top of Mind newsletter
On
Off
Email me comment notifications
On
Off
On-screen comment notifications
On
Off
Interests
Select interests to personalize your profile and experience on Gates Notes.
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Alzheimer's
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Account Deactivation
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process.
If you would like to permanently delete your Gates Notes account and remove it’s content, please send us a request here.
An Anti-Viral Campaign
Hard Questions About the Next Epidemic
I hit the road to talk about preventing epidemics. Here’s what I heard.
|
0

Normally when I post here on TGN, give a speech, or write an op-ed, I’m out to share good news about how the world is getting better. But last month I made an exception. In a TED talk, an op-ed in the New York Times, and a longer paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, I wanted to highlight a sobering fact: The world is not prepared to handle a major epidemic. I shared a few thoughts about what it might take to get ready, based on lessons from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

I was curious to hear people’s feedback on my suggestions, so it was great to meet in Berlin with a group of health experts from governments, non-profits, and pharmaceutical companies, and then with U.S. senators in Washington, D.C. In this post, I want to share a few of the things I heard.

There is general agreement that this is a big challenge. Everyone I talked to, politicians and technical experts alike, felt strongly that the world isn’t doing enough to prepare. There is also broad agreement about what to do: we need to create a global alert and response system for epidemics.

As we got into the details, though, we ran into some tough issues.

For example, I argued that in a severe epidemic, the military has to play a role. It’s the only group that can quickly move large numbers of people and equipment in and out of an affected area. But in my conversations in D.C., it became clear that the U.S. military is not chartered for this work and doesn’t prepare for it, which meant that in West Africa they were learning on the fly.

“What happens when there’s an outbreak in a region where people see the army as the bad guy?”

In addition, what happens when there’s an outbreak in a region where people see the army—whether it’s domestic or foreign—as the bad guy? Some NGO leaders and health workers worry that being associated with armed forces could put them in harm’s way by making them a target.

This is one of the toughest issues that came up and it deserves more discussion. At a minimum I think we need a diverse set of military groups from different countries ready to help. And we can take steps to make it clear that troops are on a humanitarian mission, for example by running simulations in different countries so citizens can see what they’re up to.

Another big topic was drug trials. In an epidemic you want to develop and test new treatments very quickly. But how do you make that happen when the usual drug-approval process takes years? Should there be an emergency regulator who decides which drugs to test, how to test them quickly, and whether to deploy one? Should (and can) they indemnify whoever is producing the drug to protect them from lawsuits?

All these conversations raised a larger issue that is fascinating to me: How should the world get ready for rare, potentially cataclysmic events? When an epidemic strikes, we will want the best health and logistics experts ready to spring into action. But which group has the budget to maintain that kind of spare capacity? Even more importantly, how do we get brilliant people to sit around waiting for an event that has a small chance of occurring in any given year?

The closest analogy I can think of is the military, where troops might go years at a time without seeing combat. They use training exercises and war games to stay sharp. I think we should be doing something similar—germ games—for epidemics.

What happens next? Even though the experts mostly agree on the broad strokes of what should be done, I don’t know whether the world will choose to put meaningful resources into this effort. But I am hopeful that it will happen. The group I joined in Berlin is providing input to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the G7 group of wealthy countries as they think about how they can help solve this problem. Creating a global plan would help more nations see how they can contribute and hopefully draw them in. The United Nations and WHO are also looking at various steps that could improve their ability to respond. And at the Gates Foundation we’re talking about how we might be able to assist.

It is great to see this issue rising up the global agenda. The world isn’t ready yet for a serious epidemic, but I think we have a good chance to make real progress in the next few months.

Read this next
NEXT
Comments
posting ...
Please verify your email in order to make comments. Click here to resend verification email
Sorry, duplicate comments are not allowed. 
Sorry, that HTML is not allowed. 
Sorry, something went wrong. 
In order to comment you must be a Gates Notes Insider. Please sign up or log in to continue. 
Be the first to leave a comment.
Comment Locked
Comments more than 2 months old are locked. For more information, contact us.
Report
Delete Comment?
Deleting this comment will remove replies to this comment by you and others as well. This action cannot be undone.
Delete Comment
Why do you want to report this comment?
It's annoying or not interesting
It's abusive and/or vulgar
It's spam
Report Comment
Your report has been submitted.
Close
Save
Cancel
Thanks for visiting the Gates Notes.
We'd like your feedback. Yes, I'll take the survey No thanks
Become a Gates Notes Insider
Join the Gates Notes community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, participate in giveaways, and more.
Already joined?
LOG IN
Logout:


Become a Gates Notes Insider
Become a Gates Notes Insider
Join the Gates Notes community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, participate in giveaways, and more.
Already joined? Log in
LOG IN
SIGN UP
Use your social account:
Or sign up with email:
Title
Mr
Mrs
Ms
Miss
Mx
Dr
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Why are we collecting this information? Gates Notes may send a welcome note or other exclusive Insider mail from time to time. Additionally, some campaigns and content may only be available to users in certain areas. Gates Notes will never share and distribute your information with external parties.
Bill may send you a welcome note or other exclusive Insider mail from time to time. We will never share your information.
Sign up
We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Sign Up" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
Street address
City
postal_town
State Zip code
administrative_area_level_2
Country
Data
Gates Notes Insider Sign Up FAQ

Q. How do I create a Gates Notes account?

A. There are three ways you can create a Gates Notes account:

  • Sign up with Facebook. We’ll never post to your Facebook account without your permission.
  • Sign up with Twitter. We’ll never post to your Twitter account without your permission.
  • Sign up with your email. Enter your email address during sign up. We’ll email you a link for verification.

Q. Will you ever post to my Facebook or Twitter accounts without my permission?

A. No, never.

Q. How do I sign up to receive email communications from my Gates Notes account?

A. In Account Settings, click the toggle switch next to “Send me updates from Bill Gates.”

Q. How will you use the Interests I select in Account Settings?

A. We will use them to choose the Suggested Reads that appear on your profile page.

BACK
Forgot your password?
Enter the email you used to sign up and a reset password link will be sent to you.
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Reset Password
Reset your password.
Set New Password
Your password has been reset. Please continue to the log in page.
Log in
Get emails from Bill Gates
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
On
Off
Email me comment notifications
On
Off
On-screen comment notifications
On
Off
This email is already registered
Finish
We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign up FAQ. By clicking "Continue" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
You're in!
You're in!
Please check your email and click the link provided to verify your account.
Didn't get an email from us? Resend verification email
Upload a profile picture
Choose image to upload
Uploading...
Uh Oh!
The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.
Ok
Title
Mr
Mrs
Ms
Miss
Mx
Dr
Cancel
Save
This email is already registered
Cancel
Save
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Email and notification settings
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
On
Off
Email me comment notifications
On
Off
On-screen comment notifications
On
Off
Select your interests
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Alzheimer's
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Finish
Confirm Account Deactivation
Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?
Deactivating your account will unsubscribe you from Gates Notes emails, and will remove your profile and account information from public view on the Gates Notes. Please allow for 24 hours for the deactivation to fully process. You can sign back in at any time to reactivate your account and restore its content.
Deactivate My Acccount
Go Back
Your Gates Notes account has been deactivated.
Come back anytime.
Welcome back
In order to unsubscribe you will need to sign-in to your Gates Notes Insider account
Once signed in just go to your Account Settings page and set your subscription options as desired.
Sign In
Request account deletion
We’re sorry to see you go. Your request may take a few days to process; we want to double check things before hitting the big red button. Requesting an account deletion will permanently remove all of your profile content. If you’ve changed your mind about deleting your account, you can always hit cancel and deactivate instead.
Submit
Cancel
Thank You! Your request has been sent