Leading biopharmaceutical research and development companies, in the United States and in other countries, are working nonstop to develop a vaccine to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this crisis, government policy must be especially supportive of the research community. In short, public policy must not only ensure that any such vaccine is safe and effective, but also facilitate its rapid development and timely deployment.
For the private sector, collaboration and cooperation among research and manufacturing firms are also critical. In that vein, my own company, Pfizer, released a five-point plan last month.
Pfizer is committed to making the vital tools that we develop widely available to the broader scientific community on an open-source platform.
We are also pledging to share data and our findings with researchers in other companies in real time to advance therapies for patients.
Because Pfizer is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of vaccines and therapeutics, we are committed to using any excess manufacturing capacity, including potentially shifting production, to support other research organizations in order to get these lifesaving breakthroughs into the hands of patients as quickly as possible.
For government policy, the good news is that America’s federal regulatory authorities are cooperating with private sector research and manufacturing companies to spur innovation in new therapeutics and vaccines.
Novel approaches to clinical trials, such as telemedicine, and digital remote monitoring, along with a new, streamlined federal regulatory process can expedite research and development.
During a national medical emergency, a strong private and public sector partnership is the key to advancing innovation.
In the United States, that’s now happening.
In this crisis, developing medicine is obviously of paramount importance. But that’s only the critical first step. It’s also necessary to improve patient access to innovative therapies.
One way to encourage rapid and widespread adult vaccination is for the states to review their laws and make sure that community-based pharmacists can administer vaccines.
Roughly 9 out of 10 Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy that provides vaccination services to patients without an appointment. When pharmacists are allowed to immunize patients, that not only benefits patients, but it also relieves the pressure on the rest of the health care delivery system.
Moreover, allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines is the lowest-cost alternative for providing this essential public health service.
Community-based pharmacies are excellent means of securing rapid vaccination, particularly in large population centers. They offer extended hours of service compared with other provider sites. They are especially advantageous for younger, healthier adults for whom immunization rates are exceptionally low.
For America’s seniors—those most vulnerable to COVID-19—there’s an additional reason to use pharmacies. A majority of family physicians either aren’t stocking, or are unable to bill for, all available vaccines, especially those reimbursed under Medicare Part D.