A new global coalition has been launched to tackle emerging infectious diseases, with close to half a billion dollars pledged so far to “give the world an insurance policy against epidemics.” Over the next five years, the plan is to focus on three emerging threats in order to get ahead of any potential new outbreak that could threaten global public health.
The initial investment of $460 million into the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is made up of contributions from the governments of Germany, Japan, and Norway, in addition to the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but it is hoped that more nations will contribute in order to prevent new global health emergencies.
The fund will initially home in on three diseases, Lassa, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and Nipah, which have all been flagged as having the potential to spread rapidly and create epidemics. Resources will be put into increased research of the viruses, and vaccine development will be fast-tracked, in order to try and outpace any outbreaks that may occur within the next decade.
Vaccines to tackle the Zika virus, which is still being spread around the Americas, has also been fast-tracked. Song Pin/Shutterstock
It comes following the major outbreak of Ebola in West Africa that killed 11,000 people between 2014 and 2016, and decimated many of the affected nations' health care services, despite the fact that the virus had been known about for many decades previously. Even after this, a similar situation emerged last year, when the Zika epidemic took hold in Brazil, and is still being spread and detected around the globe.
“Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said in a statement. “Without investments in research and development, we will remain unequipped when we face the next threat. The ability to rapidly develop and deliver vaccines when new ‘unknown’ diseases emerge offers our best hope to outpace outbreaks, save lives, and avert disastrous economic consequences.”
The CEPI was initially started after the Ebola outbreak in order to rapidly develop a vaccine, and will now focus on diseases emerging in developing nations that typically do not get the attention of large pharmaceutical companies due to the lack of potential profit from manufacturing such medicines. In light of this, the CEPI will ensure that any vaccines made available will be affordable and accessible to everyone.