Good Covid Ideas from Bill Gates

Bill Gates has probably spent more time thinking about public health—not just in the developing world—than almost anyone who isn’t a medical epidemiologist. In a 2015 TED talk, he warned about the likelihood of a pandemic and his bottom-line was, “We’re not ready.”

Being right isn’t always gratifying. Yet, in the current issue of WIRED, Gates doesn’t cast blame on the skeptics. “We can do the postmortem at some point. We still have a pandemic going on, and we should focus on that.”

His message is for public officials and private industry alike. A particularly urgent need is for a rapid self-test for Covid 19. Most tests today, which require people to wait days for results, are essentially useless, Gates says, and a big barrier to quicker test results is the insurance reimbursement system. Tardy tests are reimbursed at the same rate as timely ones. Why not build in a financial incentive for speedy response and a penalty—including no reimbursement at all—for delayed results?

Another shortfall is that the US should help the vaccine companies build extra factories for the billions of doses that will be needed around the world if the pandemic is to be effectively stopped. Although this would be expensive, he says it’s a fraction of the money that will be lost in a tanking worldwide economy. “In terms of saving lives and getting us back to normal,” that expenditure is a smart and essential investment. Interesting.

2 thoughts on “Good Covid Ideas from Bill Gates

  1. Why should the US be paying for vaccines to be used around the world when China is responsible for this mess? Even if one buys into the far fetched “bat to human” origin the Chinese promoted, and not the more likely explanation that it originated in the Wuhan bio genetics laboratory, they still allowed the carriers to board international flights which spread the virus to the rest of the world. I think if any country should pay the bill for the rest of the world it’s China, not the US.

    • The most important thing is that it gets done, regardless of who pays for it. Because we’ll all pay for it one way or another. Travel and trade are not coming to a halt, so the risk of transmission won’t go away either. Agreed, a multinational effort to manufacture and deploy vaccines is by far preferable for many reasons, but that kind of agreement takes time to develop and implement and the developed countries should be working on that now.

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