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Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

House Foreign Affairs Committee to consider SAFE Act efforts to involve United States in CEPI

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A bill first introduced in the 116th Congress — the Securing America from Epidemics (SAFE) Act (H.R. 2118) — is making the rounds in the House of Representatives again, thanks to its reintroduction by U.S. Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA).

Bera, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia and Nonproliferation, was backed by U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who co-sponsored the bill. With this bill, the pair seeks to authorize the U.S. to participate in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a public-private partnership focused on developing vaccines for infectious diseases pathogens, including coronaviruses.

“In just months, the COVID-19 virus spread across the world, causing widespread human suffering while crippling the global economy,” Bera said. “It is a national security and public health imperative that the United States lead on global health security to both defeat this pandemic and to prepare for future deadly diseases. A critical institution that is helping lead the international fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is CEPI, which provided early funding for the successful Moderna vaccine, and also co-leads COVAX, the global effort to manufacture and equitably distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to communities across the world. The SAFE Act will allow the U.S. to be a full and active participant in CEPI. By working through organizations like CEPI to develop new vaccine technologies, we will help ensure the world is far more prepared for the next pandemic.”

While the bill passed the House back in 2020, no action was taken on it in the Senate. It was reintroduced this week and referred to the U.S. Foreign Affairs Committee.

In addition to authorizing the U.S. to join CEPI, the legislation would empower the president to establish a federal employee from the agency providing the most contributions to CEPI to take point as a national representative therein. By 180 days after enactment of the bill, the president would have to submit to Congress any planned contributions to CEPI, how the U.S. intends to participate in the governance of CEPI, and how participation could benefit U.S. government strategies in health security.

“Unfortunately, this will not be the last contagious and deadly virus our world will battle and confront, which is why it is of the utmost importance our country continues to be a leader in global health,” Fitzpatrick said. “The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has been integral in our global fight to defeat COVID, providing funding for the Moderna vaccine and ensuring the manufacturing and equitable distribution of the vaccine across the world.”