What could be worse than a disease that has killed at least 6 million people globally and nearly 1 million in the US alone, if not far more? What could be harder to endure than over two years of unprecedented economic and social disruption? The next pandemic.
The ingredients for an even more devastating pandemic are already in place. The rate of viral spillovers from animals to human beings has been increasing, even as advances in new biotechnology tools raise the specter of manmade pandemics deadlier than anything that can be cooked up by nature.
Perhaps worst of all, the millions of dead because of Covid-19 somehow haven’t been enough to convince Congress to fully fund the programs needed to prepare for the next pandemic. At best, the government might soon approve a scaled-back package focused on Covid-19 specifically.
This is shockingly short-sighted. More than any other single existential threat, either natural or anthropogenic, a contagious and deadly infectious disease pandemic has the potential to truly derail humanity’s present — and its future.
But it is within our power to mitigate or even prevent the biological catastrophes to come. Over the next week, we will publish stories that explain how we can fortify our pandemic defenses for speed and resilience. From peacetime trials of vaccines and antivirals before the next outbreak hits, to the creation of a reserve health corps to staff the medical front lines, to how simulations of future disasters can help prepare us for the worst, these are the pandemic upgrades we can make today to save lives tomorrow.
We need to be developing vaccines for the next pandemic — right now
Scientists have a strong idea of which types of viruses could cause an outbreak. We can fund vaccines and treatments for them now. —Dylan Matthews
Finding the next pandemic virus — before it finds us
The tricky work of seeking, sequencing, and sharing viruses around the world. —Umair Irfan
Why experts are terrified of a human-made pandemic — and what we can do to stop it
As biology gets better, biosecurity gets harder. Here’s what the world can do to prepare. —Kelsey Piper
How to test and trace a virus we haven’t discovered yet
We have the technology to ensure the next outbreak doesn’t become another Covid-19. —Dylan Matthews
How sewage can warn us about the next pandemic
The ins and outs of wastewater surveillance. —Muizz Akhtar
America needs more doctors and nurses to survive the next pandemic
Staff shortages crippled America’s Covid-19 response. That can’t happen again. —Dylan Scott
How to future-proof your life from pandemics and other threats
You can prepare your brain for the next big disaster, biological or otherwise. A futurist explains how. —Sigal Samuel
Can we 3D print a better face mask?
How 3D printing can help mitigate PPE supply shortages in future pandemics. —Miranda Dixon-Luinenburg