Any Time. Infectious disease outbreaks now occur 3 times more often than 40 years ago.
We don’t know. But, of about 2 dozen viral families capable of infecting humans, 6 families (Adenoviridae, Coronaviridae, Orthomyxoviridae, Paramyxoviridae, Picornaviridae, and Poxviridae) have these traits that will likely cause the next pandemic.
No immunity –
No preexisting immunity in the world’s population.
Spread via respiratory transmission
Transmissible by infected people who have no symptoms
No existing, effective therapeutics or vaccines
No. Currently there is $0 sustained federal funding dedicated to developing medical countermeasures for unknown viral threats.
Developing the COVID-19 vaccines in 1 year was only possible because of 15 years of prior coronavirus research + a $12 billion federal investment.
By focusing medical countermeasure development efforts on the viral families most likely to cause pandemics, rather than on a specific virus that may or may not present a future threat.
The United States should fund a new dedicated Disease X Medical Countermeasure Program that leverages technologies and vaccine platforms most suitable to the viral families that are likely to cause future catastrophic disease outbreaks.
Medical countermeasures against 1 member of a viral family could easily be adapted to another member quickly when the next threat emerges.
With this flexible approach, private–public partnerships could develop vaccines, antivirals, and tests for a range of unknown potential pandemic pathogens in months, not years.
Stopping the next COVID-19-type pandemic a month earlier in the United States would save approximately $500 billion.