Bill Gates: World is “tragically unprepared” for pandemics, and terrorists could benefit from it
Bill Gates warned at the World Economic Forum in Davos that bioterrorism has become a serious issue, and that the global community is unprepared to combat it.
The Microsoft founder urged politicians and private organisations to make “substantial investments” in their approach to a new form of terrorism, which could see the intentional spreading of epidemics.
“What preparedness will look like for intentionally caused things, that needs to be discussed,” he said during a panel at the World Economic Forum. “It’s very hard to rate the probability of bioterrorism, but the potential damage is very, very huge.”
Earlier in the week, Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will team up with governments from Germany, Japan and Norway to create the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The coalition’s purpose will be to research and develop new vaccines, and to help coordinate responses to outbreaks of disease.
“Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics,” Gates said in a statement. “Without investments in research and development, we will remain unequipped when we face the next threat.”
Gates said that he thought an epidemic, “either naturally caused or intentionally caused”, will be the most likely thing to cause “say, 10,000 excess deaths”.
This echoes concerns he voiced in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session in 2016, when he wrote about the serious potential for a terrorist group to purposefully spread disease: “The problem of how we prevent a small group of terrorists using nuclear or biological means to kill millions is something I worry about.”
CEPI will first target the MERS-CoV, Lassa, and Nipah viruses, and try to come up with vaccinations for each in the event of an outbreak. The coalition has managed to raise $490 million so far, and has a target of $1 billion to fund five years of research and development. Gates is urging world leaders to support the group, to make up the remaining money.