COVID-19 is a timely reminder of the importance of investing in pandemic preparedness and response. The pandemic was a global health catastrophe that severely set back progress towards ending global poverty. Low-income and lower-middle-income countries suffered some of the worst mortality rates, and faced the greatest financial and infrastructural challenges in terms of treating and vaccinating their populations.
Every country has fallen victim to COVID-19, and Australia is no exception. Our national experience exemplifies the need to assist developing countries to accelerate their recovery process, thereby putting an end to the current pandemic, while also ensuring that we as a planet are better prepared for the next pandemic. After all, COVID-19 isn't really over until it's over for everyone.
Even before COVID-19 , the global health community reinforced the need to improve our responsiveness to global disease outbreaks. While developed countries with established and well-funded health infrastructure had become less susceptible to the spread of fatal infectious diseases, other parts of the world were still highly vulnerable. Consider, for example, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa in 2014, which caused over 11,000 needless deaths. It would have only taken some small mutations in the Ebola virus for the transmission and death count to reach pandemic levels.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was established in 2017 as a response to the Ebola epidemic, in order to develop vaccines for future disease threats to ensure pandemics are no longer a threat. A nearly 100% effective vaccine that had been under development for over a decade was not used for over a year into the Ebola outbreak, suggesting quicker development of vaccines against known threats was needed. CEPI strives to “accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable equitable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks” by working as a coalition of governments, philanthropy, global health organisations, vaccine developers and manufacturers, and civil society.
If not for the work of CEPI, the development of COVID-19 vaccines could have been a much slower, costlier, and poorly organised affair.
As a partner in the EndCovidForAll coalition, Results was successful in campaigning for a $100 million commitment from the Australian Government for CEPI at the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit in 2022. This contribution, alongside funding from other donors partners, will enable CEPI to implement a six-point plan that will see enormous benefits to the global health system:
Strengthening defences against COVID-19;
Developing vaccines for known threats;
Working to compress vaccine development timelines to 100 days;
Producing a library of prototype vaccines;
Establishing global networks for lab capacity; and
Boosting global manufacturing capacity by supporting low-income and middle-income countries.