Bill Gates Has A Billion-Dollar Answer For Preventing Pandemics, But Is He Fronting The Cash To Make It Happen?
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: Stacie McChesney / TED

Bill Gates Has A Billion-Dollar Answer For Preventing Pandemics, But Is He Fronting The Cash To Make It Happen?

If Lauryn Hill is known for nothing else, it’s her iconic album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” On it rests one of her most famous tunes –“The Ex-Factor,” in which the opening lyrics state, “It could all be so simple.”

Based on Microsoft Founder and CEO Bill Gate’s recent TED talk, one could assume he shares a similar sentiment. With the theme A New Era, TED2022 featured some of the world’s most prolific thought leaders. Gate’s session was a part of this epic lineup during session six of the conference, Wellbeing.

During this session, each speaker was tasked with the responsibility to share thoughts and solutions that could contribute to the holistic health and overall good of people. This year’s talk by the tech giant and billionaire was a sequel of sorts to his Ted2015 talk.

Seven years ago, Gates spoke with the audience about the World’s lack of readiness for an impending pandemic. This year, the foreshadowing commentary shows how countries were not prepared for what the world is experiencing because of COVID-19.

Although most of the world seems to be still trying to find a sustainable solution, Gates suggests that we didn’t even have to be in this predicament. The answer follows the ancient Romans and their plan for fire prevention.

While referencing the ancient Romans’ scheme to prevent fire, Gates went on to show how much investment, knowledge, and resources exist in fire prevention. What’s more, this is the type of system Gates believes is necessary for preventing future pandemics.

GERM Is The Answer, Bill Gates Says

Photo taken at The Last Pandemic exhibit at TED2022

Leveraging fire prevention as a model, preventing the next pandemic rests on the ability to build a team that will be on constant alert and ready to respond to the viral threat immediately. Although a group of this sort does not exist, Gates has an idea of what such a response group could look like.

Gates wants to establish the Global Epidemic Response & Mobilization (GERM) Team.

“This group is full-time. Their only priority is pandemic prevention,” Gates explained. “It’s made up of a diverse set of specialists with many different realms of expertise — epidemiologists, data scientists, data experts. And, it’s not just scientific and medical knowledge. They also have to have communication and diplomacy skills.”

A specialized team of this magnitude comes at a significant price point, however.

“The cost of this team is high. It’s over a billion a year,” Gates continued.

With increased dialogue about privilege and power, some local citizens had strong critiques concerning the proposed price tag of GERM.

“Bill Gates has a plan to create a worldwide, WHO pandemic ‘fire brigade’ to prevent the next pandemic,” one user said via Twitter. “He says it will cost $1 billion/year to fund. He could fund it himself for 37 years just on the wealth he’s gained in the last two years.”

Practice Makes Perfect?

Still, Gates believes GERM, like rapid response firefighters, is the best option for combating outbreaks before they become pandemics. With a version of equity applied, these teams will be dispatched worldwide, with more resources going to countries with small economic capacity.

This becomes a plausible plan for the teams to engage in routine drills — like fire drills.

“Practice is key. That’s how you make sure everyone knows what to do,” Gates explained.

GERM members would be tasked to look into issues like a new cough and determine if it is evidence of a new virus. According to Gates’ presentation, the response rate is paramount during the first 100 days. If an identified outbreak can be researched and examined during this initial time, the likelihood of a pandemic occurring will be minimized.

“If we’d been able to stop it in 100 days, we’d been able to save over 98 percent of the lives,” Gates pointed out.

Reasonable Doubt

In addition to GERM, Gates suggests the world needs additional resources and diagnostic material to stop the next outbreak. Resources like the Lumira DX test for several infectious diseases are a tenth of the cost of a PCR test but just as accurate. Gates also discussed using an inhalable drug that would block the body’s ability to become infected.

These resources were among a short but intensive list of items necessary to stop the spread of any impending outbreak. However, the mention of new medical action – like the COVID-19 vaccine -garnered protestors’ attention.

Beyond any medical implications, the vaccine has been the root of much divide. While Gates delivered his talk, protesters were outside, showing their disapproval of Gates and his messaging.

Gates has been the target of many conspiracy theorists and “anti-vaxxers” disdain. They believe he somehow orchestrated the entire idea of the pandemic. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a shock that there was a visible protest during his TED talk.

However, when asked his thoughts about the protests, Gates simply thinks “it’s kind of weird.”