Bill Gates warns of pandemics which could be far worse than Covid

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As Covid-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant surge across the world, Bill Gates has warned of pandemics worse than the current one.

His comments came as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and British biomedical charity Wellcome Trust on Tuesday pledged $150m (£109,995) each to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) in the fight against Covid and to prepare for future pandemics.

The global partnership CEPI was co-founded five years ago during the Ebola epidemic. It co-leads Covax, the initiative to distribute Covid vaccines across the developing world.

Fourteen vaccine projects, including those of AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax, were also funded by the CEPI.

“Those vaccines made a huge difference, saving lots of lives and getting out very quickly,” Mr Gates was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.

“But the picture is mixed... we didn’t get the quantity to the developing countries as quickly as we wanted,” he added.

The CEPI is trying to raise $3.5bn (£2.6bn) to drastically reduce the time taken to produce a vaccine to within 100 days.

Mr Gates urged governments to contribute billions of dollars to prevent the spread of future pandemics which could include fatalities far worse than the Covid pandemic.

He added that it had fallen on philanthropists and rich governments to address vaccine inequities and urged governments to contribute more.

“It was at-risk money that caused the trials to take place. So there was a huge global benefit. We’re all a lot smarter now. And we need more capacity for the next time,” he said.

“When we talk about spending billions to save... trillions of economic damage and tens of billions of lives, it’s a pretty good insurance policy,” Mr Gates was quoted as saying by the Financial Times newspaper.

Jeremy Farrar, the director of Wellcome, said at the press briefing that “a truly global response” was needed and urged governments to increase their contributions.

CEPI chief executive Richard Hatchett said the spread of the Omicron variant “over the past two months exemplifies the ways in which we must be ready, both in terms of speed and the scale of our response, to respond to future threats.”

Watch: COP26: Bill Gates says 'humanity has never done anything this hard' when it comes to tackling climate change

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