Senate Introduction of International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act Highlights Urgent Need to Allocate Funding Approved in March for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee acted last week to strengthen America’s leadership on global health security by introducing the International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act of 2021. Among many important elements, the bill includes authorization of U.S. participation in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an authorization passed by the House in the previous Congress. The legislation also reiterates congressional intent for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to make an “immediate contribution” of $300 million to CEPI from funding allocated for that purpose in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in March.
Overall, ARPA allocated a total of $905 million to USAID for pandemic-related global health activities. Congress stipulated that the funding include “a contribution to a multilateral vaccine development partnership to support epidemic preparedness”—a clear nod to CEPI. After two months passed without an allocation to CEPI, several lawmakers followed up in May with a letter specifically calling on the administration to expediently allocate $300 million to CEPI for work directly related to the “immediate phase of the COVID-19 response.” Yet today, nearly four months after APRA’s passage and with fresh legislative evidence of congressional intent, CEPI has yet to receive the funding.
Jamie Bay Nishi, Director of the Global Health Technologies Coalition, said:
“While today, much attention is rightly focused on procuring more vaccine doses for low-income countries, funding for CEPI’s research is also critical for successfully using vaccines to end the pandemic. That includes currently underfunded work to identify and assess threats from disease variants; validate two-dose regimens that ‘mix and match’ vaccines from different manufacturers; and develop innovative approaches for providing immunizations in low-resource settings.
Congress has made it clear that CEPI is a priority for fighting this stubbornly resilient and adaptable disease. The International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act introduced in the Senate follows House action last Congress to specifically authorize U.S. participation in CEPI. And it goes further, specifying that it is the sense of Congress that CEPI receive an “immediate contribution” of $300 million from the ARPA funding to expand research and development of vaccines that can combat the spread of COVID-19 variants.
We applaud the Biden administration for taking a more active role in fighting for vaccine equity. Now they should follow the intent of Congress by providing CEPI the funding it needs—and which Congress has clearly appropriated—to pursue research and innovations that will ensure effective COVID-19 vaccines can reach every corner of the world.”