Dr Philippa Whitford MP
Chair of APPG Vaccinations for All and MP for Central Aryshire
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) aims to shorten vaccine development to 100 days in any future pandemic, with the ‘100-Day Mission.’
With a significant risk of future pandemics, it is vital we learn from Covid-19. Despite a pandemic being top of the UK Government’s risk register since 2009, the UK was still utterly unprepared, leaving lockdown as the only option to control viral spread until vaccines became available in December 2020.
How to ensure vaccines are developed quickly
The speed of development of the Covid-19 vaccines was one of the great achievements of the pandemic, taking just 336 days. Rather than starting from zero, Covid-19 vaccines were developed from ongoing research. Oxford University’s work on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another Covid virus, led to the AstraZeneca vaccine, while BioNTech’s research into mRNA technology led to their vaccine, which was mass produced by Pfizer.
The ‘100-Day-Mission’ in a future pandemic requires ongoing government funding of life sciences, including immunological, virological and vaccine research, so viruses with epidemic potential are well understood and candidate vaccines can be developed quickly.
A virus with epidemic potential could emerge in any part of the world, so it is vital we remember: ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’ — but maybe next time we will live up to it.
Investing in bioresilience
While governments spend vast sums on advanced weapons, which they hope never to use, bioresilience must be included as a key part of defence and security. The OECD estimates that the pandemic cost the global economy over $9 trillion, so avoiding a repeat would be money well spent. The achievement in developing the Covid vaccines was, however, marred by the failure of the international community to provide global vaccine equity.
Equitable access to vaccines
Despite the rhetoric of spring 2020, of organising a ‘global response to a global crisis’, wealthy countries stockpiled doses while low and middle-income countries struggled to vaccinate even their healthcare workers.
Protracted negotiations regarding waiving Intellectual Property (IP) rights or sharing technological procedures meant there was limited vaccine production in the Global South, but manufacturing initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa and South America should be supported to improve future resilience. A virus with epidemic potential could emerge in any part of the world, so it is vital we remember: ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’ — but maybe next time we will live up to it.