Vaccine initiative CEPI: Bill Gates donates and warns

Status: 01/19/2022 09:20 a.m

The vaccine initiative CEPI, which promoted the development of vaccines from Novavax, Moderna and AstraZeneca, among other things, is receiving fresh money – also from Bill Gates. The Microsoft founder takes this as an opportunity to issue a warning.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the British foundation Wellcome Trust have each donated $150 million to the CEPI vaccine initiative. The money is intended in particular to support research on a new generation of safe and effective corona vaccines against newly emerging variants of the corona virus. “None of us believe that omicron will be the last variant or that Covid-19 will be the last pandemic,” British scientist Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, said at a news conference.

Bill Gates: preparing for the next pandemic

Meanwhile, Bill Gates, one of the founding members of CEPI, warned of the risk that the world could face an even more dangerous pandemic than the current corona pandemic. Although the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is very easily transmitted, the death rate is lower than with measles or smallpox. “Our work over the past 20 years has taught us that early investment in research and development can save lives and prevent worst-case scenarios.”

The million-dollar donation should therefore also serve to “prepare for the next pandemic and possibly even prevent it,” said the co-chair of the Gates Foundation. “As the world responds to the challenge of a rapidly evolving virus, the need to provide new, life-saving tools has never been more urgent.”

Founding of CEPI in response to the Ebola epidemic

Wellcome Director Farrar agrees: “Our new $150 million commitment recognizes CEPI’s tremendous potential to protect lives from emerging infectious diseases.”

Wellcome founded the CEPI vaccine initiative almost exactly five years ago together with partners from Norway, India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum after the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa from 2014 to 2016. Germany is one of the sponsors of the CEPI initiative, whose members include governments, foundations, research institutes and pharmaceutical companies.

The 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic killed over 11,000 people.

Image: AFP

Vaccines funded by AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax

Among other things, CEPI funded the corona vaccines from AstraZeneca and Moderna. The Vaccine Initiative also largely funded Novavax’s vaccine, which has been classified as an emergency vaccine by the World Health Organization (WHO). German companies such as Curevac also received funding from CEPI. However, the Tübingen-based company was not able to show the hoped-for success in vaccine development.

Meanwhile, CEPI is also investing in research into vaccines against other diseases, such as those caused by Nipah or Lassa viruses. Both are on a WHO list of the eight most potentially dangerous pathogens that “pose the greatest risk to public health because of their epidemic potential”.

CEPI also acts as leader of the global initiative Covax. This is committed to fair access to Covid-19 vaccines, especially in developing countries.

Melinda Gates: Governments have to help

However, the additional $300 million in funding now pledged by Wellcome and the Gates Foundation will fall far short of achieving the goals of CEPI and Covax. Gates Foundation co-founder Melinda French Gates called on “world leaders to help CEPI meet its $3.5 billion funding goal.”

The UK will host the CEPI replenishment conference in London on March 8th. The fundraiser brings together governments, philanthropists and other donors to support CEPI’s five-year plan to reduce the risk of pandemics and epidemics, preventing millions of deaths and trillions of dollars in economic damage.

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