Let's learn from COVID to prevent the next pandemic

Days before G7 leaders meet in the UK to talk about how to "build back better" after the pandemic, experts are warning them that they should not lose sight of the opportunity to learn from the experience of COVID to be more prepared when the next public crisis hits. Below are a few insights from a livestream discussion between political leaders, policy makers, health experts and scientists, entitled Beyond the Pandemic: A Radical New Approach to Health Security, hosted by GZERO Media in partnership with Flagship Pioneering.


It's time to not just move on, but rather think carefully about pre-empting future pandemics by bolstering health security, said Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of Modern and CEO of the Flagship Pioneering venture capital firm. That would be the best way, he explained, to do justice to the global calls for "never again." For Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, the window of opportunity to rally the global cooperation that was virtually absent during the worst of the pandemic is closing fast.

Science journalist Laurie Garrett blasted global leadership, especially in countries like Brazil and India, for making the pandemic worse with their politicized responses, and for underplaying the importance of preventive public health. Many governments, she pointed out, obliterated their own public health capacity by putting politics first, for instance in the US by demonizing experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci and weaponizing the probe into the origins of COVID to blame China.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis offered the lessons Greece has learned from dealing with a massive public health crisis barely after recovering from an economic depression. Mitsotakis also came out in support of the EU's decision to procure vaccines as a bloc over "solidarity," and anticipated that very soon people who still don't want to get vaccinated will realize their lives will become much easier when they agree to get the jab.

For his part, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla defended his company's opposition to waiving vaccine patents because the doses are for all — rich or poor, east or west — and that the only reason they can't produce more is because not enough raw materials are now available. Pfizer, he added, is looking into expanding mRNA technology to develop better flu vaccines, those that can boost the immune system to fight non-communicable diseases like cancer, and illnesses that stem from genetic mutations.

Other key moments of the program:

  • Former US Homeland Security chief Jeh Johnson on a possible COVID commission in the US Congress
  • Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer on why only former colonial powers are against lifting vaccine patents,
  • Dame Sally Davies, England's former chief medical officer, on why we need to think differently about pandemic data
  • Partnership for a Healthier America CEO Nancy Roman on the importance of nutrition in preventing unnecessary deaths in any public health crisis
  • Lord Ara Darzi (Flagship Pioneering) on why governments need to take public health threats as seriously as national security
  • Lovisa Afzelius (Flagship Pioneering) on why we should care about the Global Pathogen Shield.

Watch the second part of the series, Stronger Partnerships for a Healthier World: Mutually Assured Protection, which was recorded live on Wednesday, June 9.

This live event series was produced by GZERO Media in partnership with Flagship Pioneering. We thank our event partners, Partnership for a Healthier America and Medtronic.

Ken Burns discusses Muhammad Ali's background and how the journey of boxing's greatest champion is just as relevant today—in sport, culture and beyond.

"He is speaking to us with a kind of force and clarity...that to me is just so enduring." - Ken Burns

No country in the Western Hemisphere is more closely associated with disaster and misery than the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Its latest upheaval centers on news that the country's top prosecutor wants Haiti's prime minister to answer questions about the murder of the president in July. Haiti is again locked in a power struggle among competing factions within its ruling elite.

Why is Haiti still so poor and disaster-prone?

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For Michael Chertoff, former US secretary of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009, the fact that America has not experienced a single attack by foreign terrorists since 9/11 proves that the US was "successful" in its strategy to prevent terrorism. That "was not [an] accident and there was a deterrent effect to be honest — had we been lax, more would have tried." Although he admits the US government wasn't transparent enough about the intelligence it was collecting, Chertoff credits US intelligence agencies with helping to foil the plot to blow up airplanes mid-air from Heathrow to the US in 2006. The US mission in Iraq, or what came after was not clearly thought out, according to Michael Chertoff, who served as the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The Iraq war made it difficult to focus on the US mission in Afghanistan and absorbed resources that could have been used more effectively elsewhere, he said.

Watch the full episode: Is America safer since 9/11?

Listen: In a frank interview on the GZERO World podcast, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, speaks with Ian Bremmer at the UN ahead of the annual General Assembly week. Guterres discusses COVID, climate, the US-China rift, and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, and does not mince words when it comes to the dire state of the world. "We are standing at the edge of an abyss," Guterres warns. COVID is "defeating" the global community and a climate catastrophe is all but assured without drastic action. Amidst this unprecedented peril, there remains a startling lack of trust among nations. And yet, there is still hope.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.


"Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." — Harry S. Truman

The former US president's warning feels particularly prescient as world leaders prepare to gather at the 76th United National General Assembly in New York City, the first such in-person event in over 18 months. The importance of apt leadership in determining societies' ability to cope — and survive — has been on full display since COVID-19 enveloped the globe, decimating communities and killing some 4.5 million people.

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As the 76th UN General Assembly gets underway, dealing with the pandemic is still the top priority for world leaders. But for John Frank, vice president of UN Global Affairs at Microsoft, COVID is not the only major challenge the world faces today.

One of them — included in the UN Secretary-General's new Common Agenda for strong, inclusive pandemic recovery — is a different way to measure economic growth beyond the traditional productivity-led GDP model by taking more into account the cost of pollution, one of the main causes of climate change.

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For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the pandemic has made the world even more divided than it was before COVID. That's especially true on climate, in his view, because rich and poor countries simply don't trust each other anymore. If we want COP26 to succeed, Guterres says we must rebuild that trust — or face the consequences of inaction. "If you are on the verge of an abyss, you must be careful about your next step." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World.

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?


Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

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UNGA 76: Vaccines, climate, crises

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