In March 2020, the world was in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We shut entire countries down and grounded economies to a halt in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Think back to March, and how much uncertainty we were living under.
Ten months later, at least three COVID-19 vaccines have been approved worldwide, sometimes under emergency authorization. Before New Year’s Day, millions around the world had received the vaccine, including frontline physicians, healthcare providers, and nursing home patients — our most vulnerable citizens.
Ten months. Take a moment to let that sink in.
The mainstream media has crafted a narrative around the COVID-19 pandemic that’s almost entirely negative. For the purpose of ratings, they have described the US response to the pandemic as blundering from one mistake to the next. This narrative is false.
There is another way — a more accurate and underappreciate way — to tell the story of the last nine months. It is a story of heroism, innovation and precise science, performed under unbelievable pressure.
Let’s not mince words: the world needs to appreciate the role of the pharmaceutical industry — the researchers, physicians and business leaders — who are rescuing the world from COVID-19. It’s the medical breakthrough of our lifetime.
Instead of dwelling on why many in the media are ignoring this, let’s review some facts.
Since the discovery of COVID-19, here is what scientists have accomplished: They identified a novel virus, unlocked and sequenced its genetic code, created new therapies to save lives, and developed two safe and effective vaccines using messenger RNA technology, a technology hopefully applicable to future vaccine development – a breakthrough for mRNA vaccines.
Most of the world already have two vaccines approved for emergency use, one from Pfizer/BioNTech and another from Moderna. The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine has been approved for emergency use in the UK. In addition, there are 64 vaccines undergoing clinical trials at the moment, including 20 in Phase III trials. The pharmaceutical industry has answered the call and invested heavily in this effort.
This was the fastest vaccine development program in history, and it’s not even close. Vaccines typically take 10 to 15 years to develop. Until the COVID-19 pandemic, the fastest development timeline was four years, for the mumps vaccine.
Many government systems moved quickly to lessen the burden of onerous regulations and provide funding so that vaccines could be developed quickly but with still rigorous standards. Perhaps it should be a lesson to all of us that regulation/innovation can be calibrated more effectively during “normal” times as industry races to develop new therapies for our world’s other pandemics — cancer, diabetes, heart diseases, and more.
The next step of the process — distribution of the vaccine — will be as challenging as the development phase, if not more so. But again, the pharmaceutical industry is rising to the occasion. Factories around the world are working in overdrive to produce hundreds of millions of vaccine doses.
Already, less than a month after the Pfizer vaccine was approved, many patients are already receiving their second dose.
And remember: six months ago many observers didn’t think we’d get a vaccine until end of 2021.
Every day, more people will be vaccinated. After health care workers and our most vulnerable citizens, other frontline workers will be next. Teachers will be vaccinated so our children can return to school. And soon, many will be able to go to their doctor or walk into a pharmacy and receive the vaccine.
Remember, this was done in ten months, with the help, dedication and expertise of our pharmaceutical industry. Next time you turn on the TV and see negativity, turn it off and imagine instead where we will be ten months from now.