The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) received $300 million in pledges on Tuesday for its work on COVID-19 vaccines and its mission to accelerate vaccine timelines for a range of existing and emerging diseases, according to a press release.  

The funding, which kickstarts CEPI’s $3.5 billion fundraising target for this year, came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome, two nonprofit organizations that helped found the coalition in 2017. The coalition will use the initial investment — $150 million from each organization — to continue developing “the ‘next generation’ of COVID-19 vaccines, designed to protect against newly emerging variants and for use in low-resource settings.”

“There is still so much more to do for COVID-19,” Jane Halton, chair of CEPI, said in a statement. “We need more research to improve vaccines, including to boost their ability to protect against variants, and we need to continue to work tirelessly on equitable distribution. We must also seize this moment to make sure we are better prepared for the future: we know the emergence of future epidemics is not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when.’”

CEPI, which works to better prepare for, prevent, and equitably respond to future epidemics and pandemics, wants to eliminate the threat of pandemics by ensuring that vaccines can be developed and mobilized within 100 days of an outbreak. Further, it wants to develop “all-in-one” vaccines that can protect the immune system against a range of pathogens and variants so that the medical community can move beyond the current “one bug, one drug” model of vaccination, where someone needs to get a new jab for each new disease outbreak. 

Broader, more comprehensive vaccines could transform public health globally by stopping pandemics in their tracks, CEPI argues. 

That’s why CEPI supports vaccine research into an array of diseases, including six — Chikungunya, Lassa fever, MERS, Nipah, Rift Valley fever — that have the potential to become epidemics, with the intention of intercepting them beforehand.

In terms of COVID-19, CEPI is helping to fund a variety of vaccines in progress, including some that could protect against numerous variants of the virus. The group has supported 14 COVID-19 vaccines to date, including three that are in wide use around the world.

The coalition is dedicated to ensuring equitable vaccine distribution. So far, vaccines have been hoarded by high-income countries, leading to extremely uneven vaccination rates globally. In some poor countries, less than 1% of the population has been vaccinated.  

The lack of vaccine equity has created the conditions for new variants to emerge

Along with the World Health Organization and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, CEPI helped launch COVAX, the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility, which aims to provide 3 billion doses of CEPI-funded vaccines to people in low-income countries. 

As of early January, more than 900 million doses had been disbursed, which brings COVAX closer to its goal of vaccinating 70% of the global population by the middle of 2022

The most recent pledges to CEPI set the stage for the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit, hosted by the UK government in March, which could see a final push in funding to end the pandemic once and for all. 

“As the world faces the grim consequences of a continuously evolving coronavirus pandemic, the ability to rapidly develop and deliver new tools to address current and future health threats has never been greater,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.

“By investing now in collaborative approaches to global health, the world will save millions of lives and trillions of dollars later on by ending the acute phase of this pandemic sooner, while also preventing or preparing for the next pandemic, and easing the heavy burden of longstanding epidemics,” he added. 

Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome are funding partners of Global Citizen.


Defeat Poverty

Coalition Working to End the Threat of Pandemics Gets $300 Million in Funding

By Joe McCarthy