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How to Prevent the Next Pandemic
Cover of How to Prevent the Next Pandemic
How to Prevent the Next Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. But even as governments around the world try to get it under control, they’re also starting to talk about what happens next. How can we prevent another pandemic from killing millions of people and devastating the global economy?
 
Can we even hope to accomplish this? Bill Gates believes the answer is yes, and he has written a largely upbeat book that lays out clearly and convincingly what the world should learn from COVID-19, explains the science of fighting pandemics, and suggests what all of us can do to help prevent another one.
*Includes a downloadable PDF with reference charts, graphs, illustrations, photographs, and a glossary, from the printed book
Cover design by Carl De Torres
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. But even as governments around the world try to get it under control, they’re also starting to talk about what happens next. How can we prevent another pandemic from killing millions of people and devastating the global economy?
 
Can we even hope to accomplish this? Bill Gates believes the answer is yes, and he has written a largely upbeat book that lays out clearly and convincingly what the world should learn from COVID-19, explains the science of fighting pandemics, and suggests what all of us can do to help prevent another one.
*Includes a downloadable PDF with reference charts, graphs, illustrations, photographs, and a glossary, from the printed book
Cover design by Carl De Torres
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  • From the cover Introduction

    I was having dinner on on a Friday night in mid-February 2020 when I realized that COVID-19 would become a global disaster.

    For several weeks, I had been talking with experts at the Gates Foundation about a new respiratory disease that was circulating in China and had just begun to spread elsewhere. We’re lucky to have a team of world-class people with decades of experience in tracking, treating, and preventing infectious diseases, and they were following COVID-19 closely. The virus had begun to emerge in Africa, and based on the foundation’s early assessment and requests from African governments, we had made some grants to help keep it from spreading further and to help other countries prepare in case it took off. Our thinking was as follows: We hope this virus won’t go global, but we have to assume it will until we know otherwise.

    At that point, there was still reason to believe that the virus could be contained and wouldn’t become a pandemic. The Chinese government had taken unprecedented safety measures to lock down Wuhan, the city where the virus emerged—schools and public places were closed, and citizens were issued permission cards that allowed them to leave their homes every other day for thirty minutes at a time. And the virus was still limited enough that countries were letting people travel freely. I had flown to South Africa earlier in February for a charity tennis match.

    When I got back from South Africa, I wanted to have an in-depth conversation about COVID-19 at the foundation. There was one central question I could not stop thinking about and wanted to explore at length: Could it? be contained, or would it go global?

    I turned to a favorite tactic that I’ve been relying on for years: the working dinner. You don’t bother with an agenda; you simply invite a dozen or so smart people, provide the food and drinks, tee up a few questions, and let them start thinking out loud. I’ve had some of the best conversations of my working life with a fork in my hand and a napkin in my lap.

    So a couple of days after returning from South Africa, I sent an email about scheduling something for the coming Friday night: “We could try and do a dinner with the people involved with coronavirus work to touch base.” Almost everyone was nice enough to say yes—despite the timing and their busy schedules—and that Friday, a dozen experts from the foundation and other organizations came to my office outside Seattle for dinner. Over short ribs and salads, we turned to that key question: Would COVID-19 turn into a pandemic?

    As I learned that night, the numbers were not in humanity’s favor. Especially because COVID-19 spread through the air—making it more transmissible than, say, a virus that is spread through contact, like HIV or Ebola—there was little chance of containing it to a few countries. Within months, millions of people all over the world were going to contract this disease, and millions would die from it.

    I was struck that governments weren’t more concerned about this looming disaster. I asked, “Why aren’t governments acting more urgently?”

    One scientist on the team, a South African researcher named Keith Klugman, who came to our foundation from Emory University, simply said: “They should be.”

    Infectious diseases—both the kind that turn into pandemics and the kind that don’t—are something of an obsession for me. Unlike the subjects of my previous books, software and climate change, deadly infectious diseases are not generally something that people want to think...
About the Author-
  • BILL GATES is a technologist, business leader, and philanthropist. In 1975, he cofounded Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen. Today, he is cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he has spent more than twenty years working on global health and development issues, including pandemic prevention, disease eradication, and problems concerning water, sanitation, and hygiene. He has three children.
     
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 28, 2022
    Microsoft founder Gates (How to Avoid a Climate Disaster) delivers a thoughtful exploration of how lessons learned from Covid-19 can inform future global public health policies. In accessible prose, he spells out steps for preventing future pandemics, among them creating a global task force dedicated to doing so, a proposition he compares to fire prevention measures in the United States, noting that local governments spend $50 billion per year on that service. Gates’s proposed team (cheesily named GERM, for global epidemic response and mobilization) would be managed by the WHO and include about 3,000 staffers at an annual cost of around $1 billion, and the group would be responsible for “watching out for potential outbreaks, raising the alarm when they emerge, helping to contain them... and standardizing policy recommendations.” Other ideas floated include improved detection of viral outbreaks, greater funding of vaccine research, and closing the gap in access to healthcare between the first and third worlds. Gates is realistic about what he’s up against (“it will be hard to get the right... level of funding”), but he does a good job of making GERM’s $1 billion price tag seem reasonable, framing it as “less than one-one-thousandth of the world’s annual spending on defense.” The result is an intriguing proposal to blunt future pandemics.

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How to Prevent the Next Pandemic
Bill Gates
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