In typical American fashion the US Covid-19 vaccination development programme took the name “Operation Warp Speed” (OWS). OWS invested approximately $18 billion in clinical development and manufacturing of covid vaccines, with agreements to purchase 455 million doses. The Lancet describes it as “the largest of the global efforts”. This is compared to CEPI’s $1.4 billion to ensure global access.

Although the OWS was a financial powerhouse in the height of the pandemic, it was disbanded in 2021. Since then, the White House has continued to expect vaccine development, “no matter what Mother Nature throws at us”. At the vaccine summit in July 2022 the industry’s key players gathered to discuss future measures, aiming to meet Dr Ashish Jha’s ambition of “better than terrific”.  

However, noticeably absent from the White House’s enthusiasm was a congressional funding request or financial proposition. Dr Akiko Iwasaki of Yale University identified “lots of barriers” to progressing novel vaccination strategies, including her own nasal candidate. Quite apart from funding, a “shortage of nonhuman primates” presents a challenge.  

As it stands, CEPI has invested $200 million into 11 efforts and NIAID has contributed $43 million to 4 programmes. With this decreased funding, it’s no wonder that the “sense of urgency is completely gone” according to Dr Florian Krammer. Pushing forward with this research is what Dr Melanie Saville of CEPI classifies as “high-risk, high-reward”, but who is prepared to take the risk? As fresh variants and vaccine fatigue offer deterrents, we watch and wait to see who will dig deep. 

To participate in funding discussions with industry experts come to the World Vaccine Congress in 2022; get your tickets here.