WASHINGTON, D.C. — To combat a pandemic as global as COVID-19, many members of the U.S. Congress believe the U.S. should participate in a global response effort to facilitate cooperation with other nations in developing vaccines for critical pandemic mitigations. Rep. Ami Bera of California, a Democrat on the House Committee of Foreign Affairs, introduced the Securing America From Pandemics Act to authorize the U.S. to participate in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
What is CEPI?
CEPI works to advance vaccination development, fund technologies to speed up the development and production of vaccines against unknown illnesses and support global response capacity to epidemics. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wellcome Trust, World Economic Forum and the governments of India and Norway founded CEPI in 2017. Since then, Japan, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, European Commission, Wellcome Trust and several countries have all contributed to its funding.
If the Securing America From Pandemics Act passes, the U.S. could join this list of CEPI partners and funders. CEPI funding supports five of the 15 vaccines for COVID-19 that are currently in clinical trials, demonstrating that the organization is a wise investment.
Why Vaccines Are A Good Approach to COVID-19
In order for a pandemic to spread, there must be people susceptible to the illness. The more people successfully vaccinated against the disease, the slower the spread. Reducing spread is essential for all pandemics. This is especially true for respiratory pandemics such a COVID-19, which spread quickly through the air.
There are two ways to achieve this condition, one is often called “herd immunity,” the second is via vaccination. In the case of COVID-19, the mass spread would take an enormous human toll, so it’s not an effective strategy. Therefore, vaccination is the best option to reduce the spread, especially since there is no cure for COVID-19 yet. As the CEPI CEO Dr. Richard Pratchett wrote on the CEPI website, “Vaccines represent our best exit strategy from the COVID-19 pandemic. No other single measure will have a similar impact on the world’s ability to respond to this threat.”
Why Can’t the U.S. Just Develop a Vaccine By Itself?
The U.S. government has rolled out “Operation Warp Speed” to speed up the development of medical treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19. However, vaccine development is best when many nations work cooperatively. The alternative to global cooperation on vaccine development is the dangerous phenomena of “vaccine nationalism.” This often creates a battle to see which nation will develop a vaccine first. Experts warn that this could undermine pandemic response.
Unfortunately, vaccine distribution is often then concentrated within the country that developed the vaccine, rather than where it is needed. If this is the case, the pandemic will continue to spread globally. It will especially affect poor and middle-income countries that could not afford to develop their own vaccine. Vaccine nationalism can be counterproductive to an effective global response to COVID-19.
The Securing America From Pandemics Act
Representative Ami Bera introduced the Securing America From Pandemics Act in the House on April 23, 2020. The bill would authorize the United States to fund and participate in CEPI. The President would determine the scope of the U.S. funding and participation in CEPI. He would also assign to the appropriate congressional committees to report. As Bera wrote in the Bill, “Support for and participation in CEPI is an important part of the United States own health security and biodefense and is in the national interest.”
The Securing America from Pandemics Act is not only essential in effectively fighting COVID-19 but also in any future pandemics that may occur. It ensures global participation in vaccine development through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
– Tamara Kamis