SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – Bill Gates called on South Korea on Tuesday to step up international efforts to prevent infectious diseases like COVID-19, as he stressed the need for the world to be better prepared for the next pandemic .
Speaking to South Korean lawmakers in Seoul, Gates called for stronger international cooperation, including efforts to develop vaccines that would be effective for a wider range of coronaviruses, to navigate what he described as a “moment of crisis.” in global health.
He said the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the South Korean government have committed to a partnership aimed at addressing health disparities between countries and supporting efforts to eradicate infectious diseases in the developing world.
He pointed to South Korea’s strength in public health tools, research and vaccine manufacturing, and praised the country’s pledge to donate $200 million to the UN-backed COVAX distribution program that provides vaccines against COVID-19 in lower income countries.
“There are many things we need to do together: we need to reach deep, we need to build more partnerships, we need to encourage scientists,” Gates said in his speech to the National Assembly. “But I am confident that with these steps we can continue to radically improve global health, halve the number of children dying again, eradicate diseases such as polio, measles and malaria and improve the lives of all humans.”
Gates later met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, who outlined the government’s plans to promote the country’s biohealth industry and expressed a willingness to further cooperate with the Gates Foundation to “improve health of the citizens of the world”. Gates said South Korea has been a “good partner” in his foundation’s health projects, including developing more accessible COVID-19 vaccines and work on HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
“We hope we can do more things together,” Gates said, according to Yoon’s office.
Gates also met with leaders of the SK Business Group to discuss cooperation on health projects. SK’s pharmaceutical arm, SK Bioscience, produces vaccines against COVID-19 and has received funding from the Gates Foundation to develop nasal sprays designed to help prevent coronavirus infections.