After three years of intensive work and collaborations between big and small pharma and the scientific community to bring out vaccines and medicines to tackle Covid-19, it’s clear that trust and early engagement played a key role, observed industry representatives whose companies were involved in these international partnerships.

However, equitable access still needed work, observed a representative with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), summing up the milestones and challenges in supplying Covid-19 vaccines and medicines globally in the shortest possible time.

Pointing out that innovations had delivered and partnerships had worked, IFPMA Director-General Thomas Cueni added, that more work needed to be done on equity. Representatives from innovators and licensees shared their experiences on manufacturing products at risk and working on licensing out technology, even as lock-downs made it difficult for officials to travel to different regions to facilitate the smooth transfer of technology. Participating in the Geneva Pharma Forum organised by the IFPMA were, among others, representatives from MSD, Johnson and Johnson, Gilead, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, alongside collaborators Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Aspen Pharma and Biovac.

Outlining learnings from the pandemic experience, DRL’s representative stressed the need for early engagement to help pave the way for products to low and middle income countries, as well. Pointing to how partnerships helped, the representative from Gilead (US maker of remdesivir) and one of its licensees Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd (Pakistan) recalled the time when the Delta wave had hit India and some ingredients for the product fell short for another market. Licensees from Pakistan and Egypt stepped up to keep the flow of supplies, they said.

While representatives with innovator companies stressed the need for industry to have a seat at the table during multi-stakeholder discussions, others representing licensees also highlighted the need for regional manufacturing in Africa, for example, that bore the brunt of vaccine inequities during the pandemic, due to protectionist measures, among other reasons.