cover image How to Prevent the Next Pandemic

How to Prevent the Next Pandemic

Bill Gates. Knopf, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593534-48-9

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. (May)