The Gates Foundation and the British biomedical charity Wellcome on Tuesday pledged $150 million each to fight the virus. COVID-19 and the prevention of future pandemics.
The $300 million will go to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a five-year-old global association that co-leads Covax, the initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in the developing world, along with the World Health Organization and Gavi, the Alliance for Vaccines.
“None of us believe that omicron will be the last variant, or that COVID-19 will be the last pandemic,” Wellcome director Jeremy Farrar, a British scientist, told a news conference.
“We need a truly global response,” he added, urging governments to increase their contributions.
The announced investment represents only a small fraction of CEPI’s new five-year action plan, which calls for $3.5 billion.
A conference organized next March in London should help to raise the sum that was outlined as a goal.
Founded in 2017 after the Ebola epidemic, the CEPI coalition has made contributions to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
It has provided funding for 14 vaccine projects, including AstraZeneca, Moderna and Novavax.
“Those vaccines made a huge difference, saved a lot of lives, and came out very quickly,” Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told reporters.
But the picture is mixed, he added, and “we didn’t get to the numbers in developing countries as fast as we wanted.”
One of CEPI’s key goals is to dramatically reduce the time it takes to develop life-saving vaccines against any new viral threat within 100 days of pathogen sequencing.
“Delivering vaccines in 11 months like we did in 2020 is unprecedented. But it certainly wasn’t good enough,” CEPI executive director Richard Hatchett said.
“The unprecedented spread of the highly infectious omicron variant around the world over the past two months exemplifies the ways in which we must be prepared, both in terms of the speed and scale of our response, to respond to future threats,” he added.