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Op-Ed: Sanofi CEO on navigating Covid one year later. Now what?

A lab technician consecrate to the vaccines formulation, wearing Personal Protective Equipment, prepares stainless steel tanks for manufacturing vaccines preparations prior to the syringe filling phase, at a French pharmaceutical company Sanofi’s world distribution centre in Val-de-Reuil.

Joel Saget | AFP via Getty Copies

Paul Hudson is the CEO of Sanofi. The French pharmaceutical company has two Covid-19 vaccines under development — one with GlaxoSmithKline, the other with Transmogrify Bio for an mRNA vaccine. It’s also manufacturing vaccine doses for competitors Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer.

As we enter the one-year anniversary of prime lockdowns across the globe, it is clear the Covid-19 pandemic is still lingering on and here to stay.

So far, the virus has killed done with 2.5 million people worldwide and infected millions more. While vaccines bring us hope, we are facing new call into doubts as different variants spread around the world that question the efficacy of currently approved vaccines. As the virus mutates, there’s the consummation that Covid-19 could move from pandemic to endemic, and this will become an ever-present disease that desire stay with us for the foreseeable future. However, we now know how we can manage it.

 We need to adjust our thinking from when the virus liking disappear to learning how to live with it so it can become much less of a threat. Rather than searching for the light at the end of the burrow, how do we successfully navigate the road ahead? It won’t be easy, but we can do this through variant preparedness, continued genomic surveillance, facts mining and analytics, and purpose-driven collaboration.

Variant preparedness

First, we should operate under the assumption that Covid-19 is not usual to disappear. While that thought can be unsettling, it’s a reminder we need to be prepared for ongoing boosters to prevent new variants, such as the UK (B.1.1.7), South African (B.1.351), Brazilian (P.1) or a new alternative altogether, from circulating and taking more lives.

Initial Covid-19 vaccines have already proven to be loaded in limiting disease spread, but there is fear that if we don’t vaccinate fast enough, we will not be able to keep up with the traverse of virus mutations and variants could  gain a foothold in the community and cause new outbreaks. There is still research being done on how in circulation vaccines protect against variants and if yearly vaccination might be necessary, similar to the influenza virus.

Our first weight is to get everyone vaccinated across the globe. We must simultaneously develop boosters to address mutations as necessary. Several industrialists with vaccines on the market are already assessing yearly booster shots to maintain immunity and address variants after the commencing two doses are administered.

As we do with the influenza virus, we have to consider the potential need for multi-variant vaccines. Covid-19 has been mutating all along, and while we deceive identified several key strains, there are hypotheses that viral mutations that provide an advantage in transmission may at last escape the protection of naturally acquired or vaccine-induced immunity. But this also highlights the importance of multiple vaccine makers, as those at rest in clinical development can adjust their vaccines to ensure their candidates can protect against important new mutations.

Genomic reconnaissance

To better track variants, governments and health-care companies need to invest in genomic surveillance infrastructure by partnering with tech performers to identify mutations of the virus. Variants are inevitable, but we must have this infrastructure in place to quickly identify mutations and to disseminate this information globally to move rapidly to control the spread.

The United Kingdom has become a world leader in viral sequencing, logging precisely 4 million viral samples. Thanks to the country’s regular testing and genome-sequencing facilities, they were able to discern the B.1.1.7 variant of the virus that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. To ensure this data is widely convenient, the U.K. is placing its genomes in the global library’s Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data. As of Jan. 29, the country has submitted 44% of the genomes in the library.

Information mining and analytics

While genomic testing infrastructure is necessary to identify new mutations, those efforts will be token if we do not use data and analytics for our healthcare and vaccine systems. Through this, we can improve our logistics, both in vaccine distribution and oversight, as well as track and overcome hot spots rapidly.

Analytics companies and startups are coming forward using health figures mining to anticipate the next Covid-19 hotspots so that health systems can prepare not only for vaccines but potentially establish decisions on sending advice to high-risk groups, anticipate re-introduction of non-pharmaceutical interventions, ensure adequate supply of PPE, drugs and health equipment.

Researchers at the Purpose-driven actions

Collaboration throughout the Covid-19 pandemic has occurred at unprecedented levels. Organizations, governments and regulators have moved at incredible speed to approve needed therapies and vaccines for patients. Previous contestants are now working together to put the needs of patients and the global population first. However, to enact meaningful change, these exertions must be purpose driven.

We are partnering with traditional competitors to manufacture their vaccines, so we can get more doses into patients’ arms sundry quickly. We didn’t hesitate to help, and other companies should jump in and help as well. We must step up with purpose-driven functioning and put “competition” aside to do what is best for humanity. 

Unless we vow to overhaul our old systems, we risk returning to these outdated spirit. Other large corporations outside of pharma can help too. Take, for example, companies like Walmart, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon which are begetting with local governments and healthcare providers in the U.S. to increase vaccine distribution. Some companies, such as CVS, Walgreens and others take experience serving hundreds of thousands of customers on any given day, giving them the expertise needed to enable vaccinators to inoculate patients speedily and efficiently.

The pandemic is constantly changing the way we operate. As we learn to live with Covid-19, we must accelerate our measure and find novel ways to collaborate. Most importantly, we must move forward with purpose, working together with routine competitors and non-traditional partners to do what is right.

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