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Editor's Letter: February 2022

Words by Helena Beer

When attending virtual pharma conferences and webinars over the past few months, the name of one country has been uttered more than most: China. Rapid regulatory reforms, plus better investment and reimbursement opportunities, have catapulted China into the spotlight and seen it grow to become the second largest pharmaceutical market in the world. Our new ‘Pharma in…’ series kicks off by delving into the detail of China’s rise to become a pharmaceutical powerhouse. The question that remains is, how far can it go?

It’s not just China that has seen unprecedented progress over the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic has become synonymous with rapid, successful vaccine development and approval on a scale never previously witnessed. Our February cover feature, The Return of the Vaccines: from standstill to stardom, looks at how this has sparked an opportunity for improved vaccine development across all infectious diseases, and it’s one that the pharma industry needs to capitalise on.

However, as our Catalyst interview with Judy Stewart, Senior Vice President and Head of US Vaccines at GSK, attests, while COVID-19 vaccine development is a runaway success, the current picture isn’t as positive for existing vaccinations, particularly those in routine vaccination schedules. In the interview, Stewart states, for example, that the US is now 37 million doses behind where it should be in terms of vaccination coverage, and there’s a lot of work to do to protect the nation from wholly preventable diseases.

And it’s a similar picture this side of the Atlantic, too, with the UK Health Security Agency warning in January 2022 that more than one in 10 children under the age of five in England are not fully protected from measles. Statistics show that coverage of the first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in two year olds in England has dropped below 90%, while coverage for the two doses of the MMR vaccine in five year olds is currently 85.5% – well below the World Health Organization’s 95% target.

As pharma gets fully into the swing of 2022, opportunities and challenges are abundant, and vaccination is only the start.

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