House OKs Bill To Join Global Health Org. Funding Vaccines

By Kevin Stawicki
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Law360 (November 18, 2020, 5:31 PM EST) -- The U.S. House passed a bill Wednesday that would let the federal government participate in an international vaccine development center founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to combat the coronavirus pandemic and future diseases.

In a voice vote, the House passed H.R. 6334, the Securing America From Epidemics Act, which was introduced by Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., to let the government participate in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

"Defeating the COVID-19 virus will be a monumental task and will require a coordinated international effort," Bera, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, said in a statement. He added that the coalition is well-situated to support vaccine candidates and ensure equitable global distribution.

Establishing the partnership will also help the U.S. prepare for future diseases and contribute to "global health security," Bera said.

"By joining CEPI, we will help ensure that the United States and the world are better prepared for the next deadly disease, and can stop it before it's able to cause damage on the scale of COVID-19," he said.

If the bill gets to the president's desk, the government will have to make contributions to the organization, which will work with other federal agencies pursuing similar objectives.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has participated in various vaccine development efforts in the U.S. and around the world and has invested in various companies pursuing COVID-19 vaccines such as Moderna, which said on Monday that its vaccine candidate is 94.5% effective.

That news came shortly after Pfizer Inc. announced on Nov. 9 that its COVID-19 vaccine reached 90% effectiveness. On Wednesday, Pfizer said that its vaccine candidate is 95% effective starting 28 days after the first dose. 

Over the last few months, CEPI has been contributing to various vaccine development efforts, giving drugmaker Novavax Inc. as much as $384 million in May to advance the company's research on a vaccine candidate. That investment came on top of $4 million that CEPI provided to Novavax in March.

CEPI has also developed partnerships with numerous international organizations like Gavi, a health organization that increases poor countries' access to immunizations, to accelerate vaccine development. Last week, Gavi announced $2 billion in funding from private institutions and nonprofits, including the Gates Foundation, to put toward a collaboration with CEPI and the World Health Organization in order to guarantee global equitable access to vaccines.

Those investments have run alongside the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, a government initiative set on making 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine available by January.

--Additional reporting by Sierra Jackson and  Alyssa Aquino. Editing by Jill Coffey.
 

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