ADDIS ABABA – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome on Tuesday pledged US$150 million each for the fight against Covid-19 as well as preparation for future pandemics.
The combined $300 million will go to Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global partnership launched five years ago by governments of Norway and India, the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, and the World Economic Forum.
“As the world responds to the challenge of a rapidly evolving virus, the need to deliver new, lifesaving tools has never been more urgent,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation.
“Today, we’re increasing our commitment and pledging an additional $150 million to help CEPI accelerate the development of safe and effective vaccines against emerging variants of the coronavirus and to prepare for, and possibly even prevent, the next pandemic,” he added.
The pledges come ahead of a global replenishment conference on March 8, in London to support CEPI’s five-year plan that seeks $3.5 billion funding to better prepare for future pandemics.
Founded in 2017 following the Ebola epidemic, CEPI has made major contributions to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. It has provided funding for 14 vaccine projects, including those of Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax.
CEPI is now working on next-generation Covid vaccines, including “variant-proof” Covid accines and shots that could protect against all coronaviruses, potentially removing the threat of future coronavirus pandemics, says its officials.
“Our new commitment of $150 million recognizes the enormous potential CEPI has to protect lives against emerging infectious diseases,” said Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome.
“We urge leaders to provide their support and ensure that CEPI reaches its funding target,” Dr. Farrar said.
Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has rebounded in waves around the world.
It has exposed a global lack of access to life-saving vaccines, particularly in Africa where just 10.9% of the1.3 billion population fully vaccinated. This compares with approximately 63% in the US and around 70% in Europe.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how inequitable access to vaccines can put the entire planet at risk and disrupt decades of global health progress,” said Awa Marie Coll Seck, minister of state to the president of Senegal.
“Innovative global partnerships like CEPI play a critical role in advancing the R&D needed to prevent future pandemics,” he claimed.