Bill and Melinda Gates speak with parents whose children are participating in a malaria vaccine trial at the Bagamoyo District Hospital in Tanzania on June 28, 2011. (Photo courtesy Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

Health officials in Thailand on Friday confirmed the country's first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in a 75-year-old businessman from Oman. With the death of a MERS patient in Germany and the "superspreading event" in South Korea that has claimed 24 lives, the crisis has prompted calls for a better early warning and response process to stop the spread of infectious diseases that threaten the planet.

At the top of many researchers' lists are a more structured way to prioritize, fund and work on vaccines for such pathogens. MERS was first discovered in 2012, and while scientists understand its molecular structure, there has been little progress toward a vaccine due to lack of interest from pharmaceutical companies.

[Why MERS spread so far, so fast in South Korea]

"The question is: How long are we going to wait around and just follow these outbreaks before we get serious about making vaccines?" Adrian Hill, a professor and director at the Jenner Institute at Britain's Oxford University, told Reuters.

Matthew Frieman, an immunologist at University of Maryland School of Medicine, has been working on such a vaccine since 2013, according to the International Business Times. He said he's still looking for partner to begin clinical trials.

“There's nothing standing in our way from pushing this forward other than the money and the will to do it,” he said to the IBT.

During the Ebola crisis, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates described the need for a way for governments to join together in manner similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

“It’s instructive to compare our preparations for epidemics with our preparations for another sort of global threat -- war,” Gates wrote in the The New England Journal of Medicine in April.

[Ebola’s lessons, painfully learned at great cost in dollars and human lives]

Warning that there is a significant chance that an epidemic of a substantially more infectious disease will occur sometime in the next 20 years, Gates said Ebola is far from the most infectious disease we know.

"Although the system is not perfect, NATO countries participate in joint exercises in which they work out logistics such as how fuel and food will be provided, what language they will speak, and what radio frequencies will be used," he wrote.

"Few, if any, such measures are in place for response to an epidemic," Gates added. "Because there was so little preparation, the world lost time in the current epidemic trying to answer basic questions about combating Ebola. In the next epidemic, such delays could result in a global disaster."


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