This blog was originally posted on Pharma Boardroom on 23 February 2021
The story of COVID-19 vaccines is one of incredible collaboration. Never before has there been such an effort on a mass scale to solve a global health crisis.
We’ve seen a decade of normal vaccine development compressed into just ten months. From the outset of the pandemic, our industry committed to do all it could to bring its knowhow to bear. We’ve seen some amazing breakthroughs with new technologies, we’ve seen some companies experience set backs, and others despite doing their utmost, have thrown in the towel. That is how tough and unpredictable our pharma world is. So this makes it all the more impressive that in less than a year after the global pandemic was declared, we have vaccines available. Vaccines that have been through the same safety checks all vaccines go through and tested with thousands of people. Vaccines that are already starting to protect those most at risk and continue to be monitored for safety as the roll out continues across the world. No opportunity to move quickly has been missed. But no corners have been cut in making sure the vaccines meet the same rigorous standards as any other biological product.
This is nothing short of miraculous. I believe it’s one of the greatest achievements of our age.
COVID-19 has affected all of us. Similarly, people working on the vaccines have like many others lost family members and friends to the disease, have experienced the strain of loved ones working on the front line, and have suffered themselves from the isolation. Those same people have worked tirelessly to develop the vaccines and get them out to the people who need them most. They are united by a shared goal: end the suffering, protect the ones they love, and help the world get back to normal.
This is what our #TeamVaccines campaign focuses on. We want to show the world that the people behind the science, also want the vaccines to be safe for their families and ours. We’d like to thank those who have shared their personal stories as part of our campaign to help people understand the vaccine development process better. They are just some of the tens of thousands of people who have been working around the clock to make the vaccines we so urgently need. And we are grateful to every single person who has put their life on hold to join this incredible effort across the world.
None of this would have been possible without collaboration. Never before have governments, health organisations, scientists, businesses, civil society, and philanthropists come together in such a concerted and collaborative way. A collaborative mindset has made the impossible happen, and it’s something we must carry forward to help shape the health of future generations.
The pandemic has been a time of breakthroughs and of bravery, especially from those who volunteered for clinical trials. And this is only the beginning. We are continuing to develop vaccines, adjusting our scientific approaches, working on potential vaccine boosters, and to find new ways of producing them quickly. We are continuing to learn more about the virus, so we can end the pandemic. We are continuing to make sure that the most vulnerable people, wherever they are in the world, are safe from COVID-19. The virus will be a threat everywhere until it’s a threat nowhere.
There will be challenges ahead. We’ve always known tackling the virus wouldn’t be easy. But we’ve shown it’s not beyond us. Since the beginning of this pandemic, industry has spared no efforts to speed development, production, registration, and equitable access to of high-quality vaccines. IFPMA members have submitted their vaccines for regulatory approval requesting WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL), paving the way for procurement by COVAX and their commitment to different strategies to expedite launch and address access barriers in low-and-middle income countries. It is the first pandemic where vaccines reach people in a number of poor countries less than three months after WHO approval, but we know that the process of striving for equity will be challenging. Only through innovative collaborations between governments and vaccine makers and well-planned deployment plans we will overcome the virus.
When the pandemic is over, we hope to be inspired to find answers to build more resilient healthcare systems and address other unmet medical needs. We have seen science and collaboration bring an end to global crises before. I can only imagine what other breakthroughs we will achieve, as we build on the foundations of this incredible team effort.