If anyone knows this subject and the best-practices in coping with a pandemic, it’s Bill Gates, whose Foundation has decades of experience in fostering global health. Indeed, Seattle and the University of Washington are deeply expert in such matters and need to step up in shaping the national debate.

Gates’s new article on the threat has just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He has wise advice on dealing with the immediate threat as well as the long-term problems. Among the proposals: more investment in health clinics in poor countries; extensive public funding to speed up development of vaccines, so pharmaceutical companies can risk a deep investment; international collaboration and data-sharing.

An example, quoting from Gates:

Government funding is needed because pandemic products are extraordinarily high-risk investments; public funding will minimize risk for pharmaceutical companies and get them to jump in with both feet. In addition, governments and other donors will need to fund — as a global public good — manufacturing facilities that can generate a vaccine supply in a matter of weeks. These facilities can make vaccines for routine immunization programs in normal times and be quickly refitted for production during a pandemic. Finally, governments will need to finance the procurement and distribution of vaccines to the populations that need them.”

The article is a valuable short-course in the science of rapid response to a spreading epidemic. One hopes Gates becomes the nation’s leading teacher and expert resource on this urgent challenge.

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