Yolanda Cervantes
Vaccine Medical Director
GSK Mexico
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Alliances Key For Quick, Efficient COVID-19 Vaccine Development

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 11/05/2020 - 15:09

Q: What are GSK’s biggest contributions to the Mexican healthcare sector?

A: GSK has participated in universal vaccine campaigns in Mexico. Moreover, the company’s rotavirus vaccine ended its development cycle in the country, allowing the vaccine to arrive during the last stage of its trials. This meant Mexico received the vaccine in three years, whereas normally, vaccines can take 15 years to arrive to the country. As a result, Mexico was among the first countries to implement a universal vaccination campaign against rotavirus, reducing mortality rates by 50 percent.

The human papilloma virus vaccine is another example. GSK was able to introduce the vaccine and start a campaign in Mexico in 2011. Alongside the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, we were able to take doses to schools in Mexico, protecting children against the virus, which is the No. 1 cause of uterine cancer. Additionally, in 2009 when Mexico faced the AH1N1 influenza outbreak, GSK quickly responded and introduced the first vaccine for the virus.

Q: How important is Mexico for GSK’s R&D efforts and what have been the country’s greatest contributions to the company’s portfolio?

A: After GSK was able to tackle the last developments of the rotavirus vaccine in the country, the opportunities for other vaccine developments increased. Mexico is among the Top 25 countries where we do clinical research on vaccines, which speaks to the country’s quality in research matters and how much it encourages investment in R&D.

Q: Aside from COVID-19, what are GSK’s current vaccine developments in the country?

A: Vaccine development related to respiratory syncytial virus is a priority for GSK. This virus is especially dangerous for newborns, the elderly or people with serious respiratory problems. There is still further research needed on the meningococcus vaccine. Although this disease is not very common, it has a high mortality rate and many complications. GSK is focusing on developing a combination of vaccines against meningococcus variations.

GSK’s vaccine on herpes zoster was also developed in Mexico but it is not currently available here. Its efficiency is higher than 97 percent; we are waiting for its arrival to the country due to the benefits it will provide patients as it also prevents other ailments or disabilities that can develop as a result of the pain herpes zoster causes.

Q: What are GSK’s current efforts regarding the COVID-19 vaccine?

A: To date, there are close to 300 vaccine developments related to COVID-19; 125 are in pre-clinical trials, 36 are in Phase 1, 24 are in Phase 2, 11 are in Phase 3 and six are approved for early or limited use. However, no regulatory entity has approved any of these.

GSK is contributing with the development of many vaccines using its A S03 adjuvant system, which was previously used for the development of the AH1N1 vaccine. This adjuvant system favors a positive immune response and defenses among those who get the vaccine. Furthermore, the system allows more vaccine production because less antigen goes into the vaccine, enabling this resource to last for more doses.  

GSK is in phase 1-2 trials of a vaccine with Sanofi and Curevac, which provided the antigen component of the vaccine while we provided the A S03 adjuvant system. Other advanced collaborations are with Innovax, which are also in pre-clinical trials, and with Clover Biopharmaceuticals in China, Medicago and Dinavax which is in Phase 1. Additionally, GSK is part of the Coalition for Innovation in Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) based in Norway, which includes many industry entities such as the WHO, governments and private companies. As part of CEPI, countries have the opportunity to start planning their vaccine supply.

Q: Once developed, how long will it be until Mexico gains access to this vaccine and how long until the public sector can use it?

A: There is no clear pathway. What has been defined is that medical staff on the frontline of the pandemic will be the first to receive it because of their exposure to COVID-19. Next, vulnerable groups will be prioritized but access sources are not yet clear. WHO, PAHO and CEPI are collaborating to create a strategy to guarantee global supply, but there are many entities that have a say in this decision.

Aside from access, there are groups that resist vaccination. Luckily, Mexico has a very strong vaccine culture but it is important to keep pushing the benefits of these treatments and the importance of receiving the right dose at the right moment. Education on the subject is very important, especially from doctor to patient.

Q: What are GSK’s near-term goals in vaccine development?

A: Investment in technology to achieve successful communication is key. As vaccine developers, remote work has been challenging but through the right communication tools, GSK will reach its goals.

Regarding clinical research, we are constantly pushing for high-quality products that have a positive impact on people. That is a key determinant for our successful developments and for the current COVID-19 efforts.

We are very focused on disseminating truthful and valuable information on vaccines and their development to help the population understand their importance. We are also very active in complementing vaccine systems and in collaborating with other parties during this health emergency.


GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst