On Jan. 23, 2020, the day the novel coronavirus forced the Chinese city of Wuhan into lockdown, two American doctors named Seth Berkley and Richard Hatchett met at the bar of the Hard Rock Hotel in Davos, Switzerland, to talk about vaccines.
At that point it wasn’t clear how soon, or even whether, effective vaccines for the disease caused by the virus could be developed. But Berkley, an epidemiologist who runs Gavi, a nonprofit that delivers immunizations to poor countries, was thinking about how the crisis would unfold if the virus swept across the globe. Hatchett, chief executive officer of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, had just handed out research grants to three vaccine candidates. The two men were in Davos for the World Economic Forum, where public health organizations often go to drum up support and funding. Hatchett was concerned the world could see a repeat of the mistakes made during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, when wealthy countries cornered the market for vaccines. (The fallout was limited; H1N1 turned out to be less deadly than feared.) He and Berkley agreed about the urgent need to raise money for vaccines even before they existed, so poor countries didn’t get left behind in a stampede for doses.