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24 - 25 November 2020

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Russian Pharmaceutical Forum Blog

Lessons Learned from COVID-19

Published on 23 September 2020 by Anna Andriyanova

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Vladimir Khristenko, president Nanolek

The entire world is now experiencing an unexpected outbreak of COVID-19. The virus has made countries to close their borders, to suspend international air traffic, affected almost all sectors of the world economy and, most definitely, placed unprecedented strain on healthcare settings on a global scale.

The coronavirus stood in the way of humankind like a cornerstone at a crossroads. We didn’t have a ready-made response plan to address this challenge. We had to follow an unfamiliar path, make changes in our measures on the go, adapt ourselves, and gain new extreme experiences.

Over these almost six months of coexistence with this novel coronavirus infection, human species have undoubtedly been able to adapt to some absolutely new everyday realities, having realized (or rather were forcefully reminded) that we are not alone on Earth. Albeit not visible to the human eye, other living organisms spread near us and could pose a grave danger to life of people. And once again we came to the conclusion that vaccination is the most important and effective way to contain serious diseases, a thesis that has been generally acknowledged for a long time.

It is known and evident that one of the three primary phenomena that influenced the increase in life expectancy in the twentieth century (along with clean water and eradication of hunger ) is the widespread use of preventive vaccination. Vaccines could increase the average worldwide life expectancy by 20-30 years. Within the life of one generation, humanity was able to eradicate more than ten severe infections (e.g., smallpox, poliomyelitis, jungle fever, etc.) or reduce morbidity to single cases.

Nowadays, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world's attention is fixed on efforts to find a vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection.

After registration of the vaccine is completed, and before its mass production starts, many countries will have to include it in their National Vaccination Schedules (NVS) as most countries perform vaccinations according to such guidelines. 

As for the Russian NVS, it covers most of the vaccine-preventable infections. Changes of the past few years, including introduction of pneumococcal disease vaccines and use of combination vaccines under the NVS, demonstrate that we do not rest on our laurels. However, currently, the National Schedule of preventive vaccinations does not include vaccination against meningococcal infection, chickenpox, rotavirus infection, and human papillomavirus. At that, the total financial loss caused by the spread of chickenpox, rotavirus infection, and meningitis and suffered by the state amounted to around 38 billion roubles in 2019 alone (according to the Rospotrebnadzor's report).

To date, with regard to the spread of coronavirus infection, there is a risk that coverage of vaccination against life-threatening childhood diseases included in the Schedule would decrease, and morbidity from these infections among children will grow as a consequence.

The coronavirus has once again proved that infections have no borders. It is especially important to prevent outbreaks of already known diseases, which could happen due to the suspension of vaccination. As far as human health and lives are concerned, there are no issues that can be postponed. To prevent the spread of dangerous diseases tomorrow, we need to be proactive today; this is like in a chess game, the only difference being that here we deal with real life.  

Today, it’s time for us to announce the deadlines by which specific infections will be added to the NVS so that manufacturers could supply the required amounts of vaccines. Everyone understands that it is crucial not just to have this or that infection on the Schedule, but also to be in a real capacity to produce a vaccine against a specific infection on the industrial scale. As long we are not aware of what vaccines and what timeframes are preferred by the healthcare system, the manufacturers will face extreme difficulties in planning their new production and development investments.

It is also vital to continue the practice of signing government contracts for more extended periods (three or more years). This will help schedule production well in advance and, consequently, guarantee on time deliveries.