Bill Gates On Pandemics: He Pretty-Much Predicted Coronavirus
With the world in lockdown from the coronavirus,
It might be the right time for people to take a look back at not just a few distractions,
But a few very important talks.
Last time, we told you about the importance of Dr. Michael Osterholm’s thoughts on the Joe Rogan Experience.
But this talk might be even more important in-retrospect.
Because 2 years before Dr. O’s book on pandemics, a little-known public speaker named Bill Gates gave a great TED talk on how we might not be ready for one…
A Strange Coincidence:
So it seems an unfortunate coincidence that almost 5 years to the day,
Bill Gates did a TED talk on how we’ve lost a potentially-healthy attitude from back in the WWII/Cold-War days.
In-fact, many of the people who recently put together post-war plans for contingencies are seen as varying-degrees of nutbar.
And of-course, they’ve been given their own diminutive nickname, “Preppers”.
Even Joe Rogan pointed-out last time, these guys must be going through every type of “I Told You So” since COVID19 has hit.
But Bill talks about a much better type of preparation; the kind Governments should do.
We Put More Money Into War Than Global-Health:
He starts out by reminding us that because governments have spent so much on armaments,
Especially in the stalemate scenario called, “Mutually-Assured Destruction”.
That right now, we’re more likely to die of a serious pathogen instead of a bomb.
And the sad part of that is because of the former,
Almost no governments around the world are taking the latter seriously.
Because we’ve lost the preparation-mentality,
And we don’t stockpile anything anymore because of modern Just-In-Time production as Dr. Mike pointed out.
Because of this Bill concludes we’re ready for fighting people, but we are completely unprepared for microbes.
Bill Gates’ Template For Coronavirus-Style Outbreak. The 2014 Ebola Epidemic:
One main case he draws from, unlike SARS or MERS ala Dr. Mike,
Is the  Ebola crisis.
And here’s where one of Bill’s most salient points comes out:
He says that there wasn’t simply a problem of an in-place system that was not top-notch.
But terrifyingly, there was no system in-place at-all
The List Of Failures From 2014 Ebola:
Here are the parts that should have been there but weren’t:
1) No disease hunters were ready to go in the field and collect data.
2) There was no fast, networked digital reporting. All the data was on-paper only. And slow. And inaccurate.
3) No pre-crisis treatment for the disease was prepared & ready to launch.
3a) It was difficult for governments to even gather an international disease-hunter team.
4) By some miracle Medecins Sans Frontieres did most of this. But only with a small staff of volunteers
5) A potential pandemic required many more people than just that organization could raise.
5a) He estimates that worldwide, this number could be as high as 100,000+.
6) Because you didn’t have 1), There wasn’t even anyone to diagnose the disease & pick the right weapons for fighting it.
7) There were even few people at central locations to figure treatment approaches.
7a) One approach could be blood-antibodies identified & replicated as a type of “vaccine”.
7b) He says this was never tried.
A Few Important Notes:
[Note: To be fair, at least a few of these failings were remedied in the 2019 Ebola outbreak in the DRC.
The Ervebo vaccine started out development at the beginning of the epidemic he cites in 2014, then tested over the next few years,
Was further perfected by US pharma companies, and went-on to become the most-quickly-approved vaccine ever by the WHO in just 48 hours.
It ultimately had a 70-100% effectiveness.]
Strangely-enough, what do the Ebola and Coronavirus epidemics have in common?
People trapping & eating random, unsafely-prepared wildlife from non-farm sources instead of standard-form livestock raised in predictable circumstances.
WHO Takes Action? Real Life Is Not Like The Movies:
So for Gates, this is his template of a large pandemic failure.
Another problem he cites is that unlike the movies,
The WHO only Monitors things, but doesn’t actually put teams and resources into action.
And using Ebola to start, he extrapolates that if there were only ~10,000 deaths by March 2015,
The same types of systemic failures could make the next epidemic much worse if a different type of disease could spread more.
The Reason Ebola Didn’t Get Worse And Why The Next One Might:
So as horrifying as hemhorragic-fever like Ebola was confined and didn’t get worse were manifold.
1) The Heroic Work by groups like Medecins Sans Frontieres, some of whom were murdered by locals for trying to save them.
2) The nature of Viral-Transmission. It doesn’t spread through the air.
[ed: the way COVID19 Does]
3) Debilitating Symptoms at Transmission. By the time you’re contagious, you can’t move and you’re stuck in bed.
[unlike COVID19, which you can have, be instantly-contagious, and not know it.]
4) Ebola was Confined to small-regions of Remote Countries. It somehow didn’t get into concentrated urban areas [unlike COVID19 in places like NYC].
4a) Next time we might not be so lucky. Some people could feel well-enough, they’d get on a plane or go to a market. [sound familiar?]
How A Virus Spreads & What We Can Do:
To reinforce how terrifying this might have gotten, a model of the 1918 Spanish Flu is a sobering animation.
[and in the future, the animation of coronavirus spreading will certainly be the template for the next outbreak]
The good news is we are more capable than ever of building that response system we didn’t have in 2014.
Even cellphones & smartphones could both retrieve and send information very quickly all around the world.
Satellites and maybe even drones can help clear up some of the confusion, when used to put live data onto towns and cities.
Advances by increasingly fast-operating pharmas & biotechs, like Merck, Moderna, Gilead & Regeneron can get treatments and vaccines out faster than ever before.
But one of the problems that remains is we have to actually do something with those resources,
And create a system that’s strong, thorough, and prepared.
Resources Are Not Enough, Governments Have To Make Them Into A System:
Here, he points out that making this system involves similar stuff to what the military does to prep for war.
1) The military has full-time soldiers constantly at-the-ready.
2) We also have reserve-units to scale numbers up just in case.
3) NATO even has 9 separate rapid-deployment units, similar to special operations detachments.
4) NATO also does a lot of war-games simulations to check how all participants would handle a given scenario.
5) They are an example of an organization constantly ready to go.
The Key Components Of Bill’s New System:
The components of what governments would do to make up their pandemic-team could be at-least the following:
1) Strengthen health systems around the world, particularly in poor countries, especially with things like vaccines & preventative-care.
[even if the rest of the world financed this, it would still pay huge dividends]
2) In order to scale-up quickly, world governments would need a type of Marine Reserves, just for doctors & healthcare pros.
3) You still need to combine Medical with Military
3a) So they can move fast and do Supply, Security and Logistics anywhere; nobody does this better than military.
4) As Dr. O might suggest and how NATO does it with war, this new force would need to run War Games with Pandemic-level viruses, or “Germ Games”.
4a)Note: The last time anyone tried this, it was in 2001 and the test-results were really bad.
5) Governments have to increase their R&D spend through biotechs & pharmas on fast Diagnostics & Cures.
[Dr. Osterholm Might Add A Few Things To The List:]
i) Repatriate some of the global supply-chain back to the US for critical supplies & drugs.
ii) Stockpile these critical supplies the way we used to back in WWII and stop relying exclusively on Just-In-Time production.
iia) It’s never engineered for Surge-Capacity, only Average Capacity.
iii) Bill’s ideas have to be put in-place, because the “Wet Markets” in Asia and unsafe-consumption of “Bush Meat” in Africa are not going away.
iiia) Although government-outreach of safe-livestock-initiatives might help with this.
iv) They also have to be put in-place because the world is only becoming more hyper-connected.
v) The persistence of governments is necessary, because once a pandemic passes, human nature is to forget it.
Financial Costs, Human Costs:
So Bill cites a World Bank figure that estimates the next pandemic, like a big Flu could reduce some measure of global wealth by $3 Trillion dollars.
[This was probably a lowball-estimate, because the decline in the US stock market alone was a loss of $12 Trillion Dollars the last time anyone did the math 2+ weeks ago.]
He’s probably understating it when he says the budget for this global-reinforcement and system-creation would be very small compared to the total costs of a big pandemic; not to mention the incalculable Human Cost.
[Dr. Osterholm estimates that by the end of the coronavirus pandemic, something like 480,000 people will have died from it.]
Hard To See The Big Picture, But The World Does Get Healthier To Start:
If governments did get together and put this plan in action, the initial and “peace dividend” would be that the whole world would become a healthier place going forward anyway.
[Especially if an international-effort to restrict meat sources to selected livestock-grade animals were put in place. -Even if governments had to supply them, which is essentially taking out a “global insurance policy”.]
He then finishes by encouraging any government-critters to get going and to remember the 2014 Ebola outbreak as a 3-Country 10,000-Casualty template of what could happen.
And if you look at all the variables he thinks could change and make the next virus a much more global-concern, he pretty-much nails what the coronavirus became.
Too bad no governments listened to him!
JUMP BONUS! Here’s the follow-up TED video-chat with Bill:
-Where he discusses the fact that nobody listened to pandemic-predictors, and what we can do now that coronavirus is here.
“War Games” movie publicity poster, by John Badham, Leonard Goldberg, Richard Hashimoto, Harold Schneider, Bruce McNall, United Artists, Sherwood Productions, and MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Red & Black Heatmap Photo, by Martin Sanchez
Videos by TED and Bill Gates
References & Links:
• Source: TED-Bill Gates
• More Coverage: For more information on coronavirus, check in with the CDC here