COVID-19 vaccine creator warns next pandemic could be worse

One of the professors who helped create a COVID-19 vaccine that is widely distributed in the United Kingdom is warning that the next pandemic could be worse.

Dame Sarah Gilbert, who helped create the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, urged viewers during remarks set to air on Monday to not lose sight of all that has been learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. And I'd like to finish on a high note but the truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both," Gilbert said during remarks at the 44th Richard Dimbleby Lecture, according to a video posted by The Guardian.

"We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness," she added.

Gilbert said "the advances we have made, and the knowledge we have gained, must not be lost."

She also emphasized the need for more funding for pandemic preparedness, pointing to the health experts who responded to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The experts who responded rapidly and worked relentlessly in 2020 and 2021, without whom we would still be at the mercy of the virus, must now not be asked to fade back into patient and underfunded obscurity," Gilbert said.

"Just as we invest in armed forces and intelligence and diplomacy to defend against wars, we must invest in people, research, manufacturing and institutions to defend against pandemics," she added.

More than 265.8 million COVID-19 cases have been reported around the world since the beginning of the pandemic, according to The New York Times, and more than 5.2 million people have died.

Experts are now scrambling to compile more information on the new COVID-19 omicron variant, which has a number of mutations. Officials are working to understand the transmissibility and severity of the strain, in addition to how much it evades protection from existing vaccines.