Covid-19 is a virus that knows no borders and has caused terrible suffering throughout the world. Now more than ever, we must remember that no one is safe until everyone is safe. As the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has said, a “me first” vaccination approach will not defeat Covid.
That is why at AstraZeneca, working with our partners in the Covax multilateral initiative, we are doing everything we can to ensure that people around the world have access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines, wherever they live and no matter what. income level. AstraZeneca was the first global pharmaceutical company to support the initiative and our vaccine will be the largest contributor in the first half of this year. I am greatly encouraged that many more companies are joining us in this effort.
Recently, the WHO granted the emergency use list for the AstraZeneca vaccine, paving the way for its rapid implementation, even in low- and middle-income countries. In the last 10 days, the first shipments of our vaccine have reached more than 30 countries, including Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cambodia, the Philippines and Moldova, with the goal of supplying 142 countries. with hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine over the next few months. This supply represents the first Covid-19 vaccine for many of these countries. For some, it will be their main source of vaccines.
We have a substantial and growing data set that demonstrates the efficacy of this vaccine. Recent real world data out of 1.1 million people in Scotland shows it to be very effective. It reduces the risk of being hospitalized for Covid-19 by 94% after just one dose. These findings were supported by data from Public Heath England, which demonstrated the extremely high efficacy of our vaccine in the vulnerable elderly in society. In the last week in Europe alone, we have seen France, Germany, and Sweden approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over the age of 65.
But no vaccine, no matter how good, can protect communities until we can get it into the arms of the people. To combat this pandemic, we need a global scale and global reach, and we have to act quickly. That is why we decided to build more than a dozen regional supply chains around the world to manufacture the vaccine, making use of our own industrial capacity but also sharing our knowledge with more than 20 partners, so that they can increase our production capacity. total. .
However, developing, manufacturing and distributing a vaccine is a very complex endeavor, especially when done at this speed and scale. Making a vaccine is a biological process that leaves little room for error, so challenges are bound to arise along the way.
We know that vaccines cannot arrive fast enough, but it is important to understand that we are still in the early stages of a production process that is only a few months old. I have no doubt that vaccine supplies will soon increase substantially and hundreds of millions – and gradually billions – of people will be protected.
If Covid has reminded us all of our collective vulnerability, it has also shown that when we work together, we can be much stronger. Science at its finest is a collaborative effort and the fight against Covid-19 has shown how governments, industry, international institutions, and academia can come together to achieve something extraordinary.
Vaccinating people around the world is by far the largest public health program in history. Nothing on this scale has ever been attempted before. We now have multiple highly effective vaccines that go beyond the wildest dreams anyone would have imagined 15 months ago when Covid-19 was first identified. It is truly one of humanity’s greatest scientific achievements and I am immensely proud of the role AstraZeneca has played in this effort.
We were committed from the beginning to supply billions of doses worldwide on a non-profit basis, regardless of the nation’s income level. We joined forces with the University of Oxford to combine our expertise and accelerate vaccine development. And we did it non-profit, because we believe this is the right answer to this global public health emergency.
If we stay the course, these highly effective vaccines will begin to clear the way to something close to normal throughout this year. But we will only do this if we can make sure the vaccine is available to everyone. We continue to do everything in our power to ensure broad, timely and equitable access to the vaccine.
This is the most serious global health emergency of our lives, so our response must be global. Only then will the full potential of the amazing power of science be harnessed.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism