Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Tuesday warned that international authorities, including the World Health Organization, need to take action against the threat posed by bioterrorism and said “germ games” is the best way to prevent it.
“It’ll take probably about a billion a year for a pandemic Task Force at the WHO level, which is doing the surveillance and actually doing what I call ‘germ games’ where you practice,” Gates during an interview with the chair of the Health Select Committee, Jeremy Hunt, for the think tank Policy Exchange, according to Sky News.
Germ games are when government agencies and militaries practice scenarios of a pandemic.
Gates then asked: “You say, OK, what if a bioterrorist brought smallpox to 10 airports? You know, how would the world respond to that?”
The world’s fourth-richest noted that to prepare for a doomsday scenario, the United States and United Kingdom would have to spend “tens of billions” on research and development.
“There’s naturally-caused epidemics and bioterrorism-caused epidemics that could even be way worse than what we experienced today and yet, the advances in medical science should give us tools that, you know, we could do dramatically better,” Gates also remarked.
During his interview with Hunt, Gates also said there should be a “new way” to manufacture vaccines that can stop the transmission of a virus better. That also would require global research and development, he said.
“You know, we didn’t have vaccines that block transmission. We got vaccines that help you with your health, but they only slightly reduced transmission,” he explained. “We need a new way of doing the vaccines.”
“The nice thing is a lot of the [research and development] we need to do to be ready for the next pandemic are things like making vaccines cheap, having big factories, eradicating the flu, getting rid of the common cold, making vaccines just a little patch you put on your arm, things that will be incredibly beneficial even in the years when we don’t have pandemics,” Gates said, without elaborating how it could be accomplished.
The billionaire’s comments come as it was revealed last month that the World Economic Forum, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security hosted a “high-level pandemic exercise” known as “Event 201” in October 2019 to simulate a pandemic.
The participants in the scenario were presented with a simulated outbreak of “novel zoonotic coronavirus” that was transmitted from bats to pigs to people, causing a pandemic.
“The disease starts in pig farms in Brazil, quietly and slowly at first, but then it starts to spread more rapidly in healthcare settings,” according to the Event 201 scenario.
Ken Silva contributed to this report.