Pharma chief in vaccine roll-out

Pharma chief in vaccine roll-out

7 April 2021

A DOWNPATRICK man is leading the roll-out of 60 million doses of a new Covid-19 vaccine.

Roger Connor is the president of GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) Global Vaccines and his company should start making the Novavax vaccine at its Barnard Castle facility in the north east of England next month.

While the vaccine is still to be approved, GSK is already working with Novavax in the anticipation of being part of the massive manufacture.

Mr Connor is a former pupil of St Patrick’s Grammar School and a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast.

He retains close links locally through his family and former school friends and holidays in Strangford each year.

He spoke of how GSK has been involved over the last year in the fight against Covid-19.

“As the world’s biggest vaccines manufacturer, in GSK we make hundreds of millions of doses in a typical year,” he told BBC Five Live.

“Covid-19 is going to require billions. This pandemic is on such a scale it’s going to need multiple vaccines so we have always been talking to many different players around the world to try and create what we think of as a global response.”

Mr Connor explained that vaccines, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have been rolled out so quickly because manufacturers are making their products before they are given formal approval.

“If it doesn’t succeed then, it’s thrown away but it saves you vital weeks, days, months if you manufacture at risk in a pandemic situation,” he said.

“We wouldn’t always do that for a vaccine coming through for other conditions but for this there’s no choice.”

He said GSK wants to make sure all countries have access to vaccines.

“We have to make sure that the developing world is not left behind here,” he said.

“We were not ready globally for this pandemic. We need to be better prepared for the next so collaboration across governments, including companies, and working on where the gaps were, plugging the gaps, will be important. It’s not ‘will this happen again?’ - this will happen again, it’s just going to be when.”

Mr Connor said that while his challenging job got even more challenging over the last year, it had “been nothing but a privilege” to lead the big pharma firm.

“There’s been a lot of questions and a few extra hours here and there but who wouldn’t love this job whenever you’re working at a place which is going to make a difference to so many lives?”