Billionaire Bill Gates wanted to take stock of this last pandemic year, taking advantage of the presentation of the Goalkeepers report for 2021, which is carried out by his foundation and serves to check the progress made around the world in the Sustainable Development Goals. “In many ways, the pandemic has tested our optimism. But it has not destroyed it,” Gates analyzes.
The Microsoft co-founder takes pride in this assessment of the high level of innovation that humans have put in place to fight the virus. “We have seen how quickly we can change our behavior, as individuals and as societies, when circumstances require it,” he explains. Thus, he lists a series of factors that give rise to an optimistic feeling.
What the so-called miracle of vaccines shows us
New vaccines typically take 10-15 years to make. Therefore, the development of multiple high-quality Covid-19 vaccines in less than a year is unprecedented. It might seem like a miracle on the surface, but Covid-19 vaccines are the result of decades of careful investments, policies, and partnerships that established the infrastructure, talent, and enabling ecosystem needed to deploy them so quickly. “We have scientists around the world to thank for their years of fundamental research,” explains Gates.
The long-term promise of genomic sequencing
Thanks to genomic sequencing, which identifies the unique genetic makeup of a virus, scientists have been able to identify and track emerging variants. Historically, Gates says, most genomic sequencing in the world has taken place in the United States and Europe. But for the past four years, organizations have been investing in building a genomic surveillance network in Africa so that countries on the continent can sequence viruses like Ebola and yellow fever.
Despite this evolution, the philanthropist explains that it is insufficient for rich countries to be the only ones with the equipment and resources to sequence the virus. Therefore, it ‘thanks’ the pandemic that has served to reinforce the importance of supporting the capacity of low and middle income countries to collect and analyze their own data, because it benefits everyone.
Even further, even faster
The billionaire explains that many of last year’s groundbreaking innovations have one thing in common: They arose from seeds that were planted years, or even decades, before. A reality that shows that it is increasingly clear that we need more governments, multilateral organizations and foundations to make investments with a vision of the future, knowing that the returns could take many years to arrive.
“We must work with others to help talented researchers around the world identify new tools and technologies that could be building blocks to solving a multitude of challenges. And we must strengthen collaboration across countries and sectors to work together toward common goals.” writes.
New sources of innovation
The philanthropist highlights that in this coronavirus crisis it has been possible to see how the poorest areas of the world have had slower responses to the pandemic. Thus, it supports investment in Africa for the manufacture of vaccines. “The continent, home to 17% of the world’s population, has less than 1% of the world’s vaccine manufacturing capacity. If African leaders, with donor support, invest in and build a sustainable regional ecosystem for development and manufacture of vaccines, the continent is much less likely to be last in line in a future pandemic, “he says.
The response to crises begins years before they occur
The pandemic, Gates says in his analysis, has taught the world an important lesson: the response to crises begins years before they happen. And if we want to be better, faster and more equitable in our approach to achieving the Global Goals by 2030, we must start laying the foundations as soon as possible.