If We Are to Put the COVID-19 Pandemic behind Us, We Need More Trust

The pandemic is expected to continue to have a decisive impact reaching into 2021 and beyond. However, some recent news gives a reason for hope: The first vaccines have been approved in many countries and more being in development. In collaboration with CureVac, Bayer will also make an important contribution to the development and production of a new vaccine candidate.

 

It may still take several months until a broader population in Germany and other European countries can be vaccinated. However, the fact that vaccines have been approved a little less than a year after the vaccine search has begun is very encouraging and demonstrates again the value of the health care ecosystem at large.


As I reflect on these recent developments, three take-aways come to my mind.

 

Counting on science and research


The world’s pharmaceutical companies and research institutions have never responded as fast to a new pathogen as they did to the corona virus. According to the Milken Institute there are currently 242 vaccines in development, in addition to over 319 existing or new medicines being tested for their effectiveness in treating COVID-19.

The collective effort of science and research in the common fight against one single virus has never been greater, let alone the underlying financial investment.


All eyes are on the scientific community to find a potential way out of the crisis through the lens of innovation and breakthroughs in medicine. 

 

Fostering more trust in science and new technologies


Safe and effective vaccines and medicines on their own are not enough to end the pandemic. We also need societal trust and acceptance. A recent survey from Ipsos and the World Economic Forum has shown that in Germany, for example, only 65 per cent of all adults intend to get vaccinated. In the US, the number of people willing to be vaccinated was slightly higher, at 69 per cent. A majority of those who do not intend to get vaccinated stated their concerns about possible side effects. In addition, some are said to believe that the vaccine has been developed too fast to have been tested rigorously.


Discovering and developing a vaccine is generally a complex undertaking. New technologies such as the mRNA process and experience with vaccines against similar or related viruses made it possible to accelerate the development process significantly, while adhering to the strict criteria for development and market approval. This goes the same as for the approval of any other innovative medicine. All vaccines undergo a comprehensive clinical trials process, involving thousands of individuals of different age and risk groups. To receive market authorization, a vaccine must be proven safe and effective. These high standards of quality, safety and efficacy must not be compromised by fast-track development. 


While the pandemic will continue to be on top of mind in 2021, we should still keep a keen eye on better treatment options or even cures for diseases that will outlast the pandemic – like cancer, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases. The area of cell and gene therapies where Bayer is actively engaged could contribute to finding answers to the greatest unmet medical needs. 

 

Working together to solve pressing public health issues


United behind a shared goal, the immense global efforts in the search for a vaccine and treatment options for COVID-19 have delivered fast results, including providing different options. However, we would not be able to welcome the approval of these vaccines if public, private, academic and philanthropic organizations hadn’t worked closely together in the fight against the pandemic – a collaboration that still goes on. The collective efforts and collaboration, even among competitors, were unprecedented in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.


True to our vision of “Health for All, Hunger for None”, Bayer provides help in the communities it operates in and is working with all parties involved – including other pharmaceutical companies – to find innovative medicines against COVID-19. 

Bayer is, for example, supporting CureVac in their development of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate CVnCoV, with its expertise and infrastructure. We will also help produce the vaccine and are planning to add an additional 160 million doses in 2022. To accomplish this, we will rely on our own product supply network including our site in Wuppertal, Germany. This is a complex undertaking as the large-scale production of a vaccine based on this new technology requires specialized skills and capabilities.


The cooperation with CureVac is the next step in our many efforts to support the fight against COVID-19. We believe in collaboration fueling medical innovation. And this has impressively been shown amidst the ongoing pandemic.

Portrait of Mike Devoy
Dr. Michael Devoy
Chief Medical Officer of Bayer AG and Head of Medical Affairs & Pharmacovigilance