We are all looking for an exit from this pandemic – a route back to our old life; normal working and social lives with family and friends. With new vaccines progressing and getting approval around the world, we’re taking big steps forward. Thanks to the frankly phenomenal efforts of the pharmaceutical industry, in partnership with academia, regulators and governments around the globe, vaccines have been researched, developed and approved faster than anyone thought was possible.
It is this global focus and sharing of data and expertise, along with worldwide clinical trials and manufacturing, which have brought us this far. Now is not the time for vaccine nationalism or protectionism from any part of the world.
Now is the time for even greater collaboration. We want every person in every country to have access to vaccines. To do this, we need to be able to rely on the tried and tested global medicines supply chains that have proved to be so resilient in this pandemic.
Manufacturing takes place in the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, the US, China and in many other places as companies work with partners to set up supply chains to serve various markets. These global supply chains are absolutely vital – whether for moving around components of medicines and vaccines or the finished products – and they must be allowed to operate unimpeded.
None of these sites must face restrictions. Introducing any kind of export obstructions for manufacturers distributing Covid-19 vaccines means we are trying to fight the pandemic with our hands tied behind our back.
It was always going to be impossible to manufacture billions of doses of any vaccine overnight. However, manufacturing capacity is being scaled up at astonishing speed to deliver the doses required. It is understandable then that tensions run high if things go wrong.
The reality is that vaccine manufacture is inherently a tricky and uncertain process, fraught with difficulty for even the most experienced companies. Alongside the scaling up of capacity, producers without Covid-19 vaccines are lending their own manufacturing capacity and expertise to produce even more doses. Export bans undermine this collaborative effort.
Companies are working as fast as they can to protect everyone. Export restrictions do not do anyone any good and we urge governments to avoid them.
• Richard Torbett is chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceuticals Industry and Nathalie Moll is director general of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations