Expo 2020 Dubai: Preparing for next pandemic, vaccine equity top priority for Bill Gates

The billionaire philanthropist promised action to achieve the UN's Sustainable Development Goals at the world fair

by Anjana Sankar

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Published: Sun 16 Jan 2022, 7:17 PM

Last updated: Sun 16 Jan 2022, 10:58 PM

Preparing the world for the next pandemic and ensuring equitable distribution of vaccines are among Bill Gate's personal 'to do list' to achieve the United Nations' sustainable development goals (SDGs), the billionaire philanthropist said in Dubai on Sunday.

Promising action to bring the world closer to Sustainable Development Goal No 3, which is 'Good health and well-being' by 2030, Gates said, needs "all hands on the deck" approach.

"One critically important item on my personal to-do list for SDG 3 is helping to ensure the world is much better prepared for the next pandemic. In the past two years, we've seen amazing scientific breakthroughs, such as the fastest ever-creation of a safe vaccine through the mRNA platform. But we've also seen that unequal distribution and lack of funding and supply have left too many people at high risk in low-income countries still waiting for their first Covid shot," said Gates on Sunday during a virtual appearance at the Expo 2020 Dubai's Global Goals Week.


The annual event, held outside the UN General Assembly in New York for the first time, brought together thought leaders, NGOs and decision makers to pledge a 'to-do list' for collective action.

Collective progress towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aimed at creating a better and more equitable future for all by 2030, underpins Expo's latest Theme Week – held in association with the UN and running until next Saturday, January 22.

The SDGs were adopted by all UN member states in 2015 to end poverty, conquer inequality and tackle the climate crisis by the end of this decade.

The Global Goals Week saw a spectacular start at Expo on January 15 with bespoke projections at Al Wasl Dome and a speech by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed.

Gates said the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation he and his wife founded focuses on the goal of ending poverty and hunger, achieving gender equality and lessening the impacts of climate change.

"But one that really speaks to the heart of what we do is SDG three," he said.

Though collectively, tremendous progress has been made, and the number of children who died before their fifth birthday due to treatable diseases has been cut in half since the year 2000, Gates said Covid had stalled the progress on many fronts.

"If we're going to reach the critical goals by 2030, we need 2022, and every year thereafter, to be a year of action. It is going to take all hands on deck. Governments, philanthropies, non-profits in the private sector - committed, focused - to working together to reach the SDGs in the next eight years," he said.

"We need a more transparent system for accelerating the global supply of vaccines in the future, one that can make more doses and allocate them more equitably. We also need more tools to swiftly contain outbreaks as they happen, such as readily available rapid testing, more distributed genetic sequencing and surveillance capability and better logistical systems to get commodities where they are needed."

By preparing now for the next pandemic, he said we would be able to prevent it and apply the same systems in peacetime to combat all diseases that remain a problem worldwide.

"In other words, preparing for the next pandemic will also help us achieve and create the world we want where everyone has a chance to lead a healthy life. It's a goal worth striving for. We have eight years to go. Let's go to work," said Gates.

Anjana Sankar

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