Marlene Teresa Llópiz Avilés
Clínica Responsable Operativa, S.C.
Expert Contributor

Two Years Later: A Look Back, Part 3

By Marlene Llópiz | Thu, 06/30/2022 - 09:00

(This is the third in a three-part series looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the pharmaceutical industry. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Management strategies can only be effective if you are willing to hold your employees accountable to their agreements, and if you are willing to hold yourself accountable to the agreements you make.

No matter what?

Even if we’re living through a severe pandemic?

Build on trust

Relationships built on trust are developed as managers and employees keep their commitments and successful results are achieved. Did employees pull together? Burnout and mindfulness and resilience became household words. Trust, respect, and accountability are not just buzzwords that you read in a mission statement. They are ideals to live by; without them, your management strategy cannot work (and neither can your business). The pharmaceutical companies held tight on trust – from every level of employment. Now more than ever, all had to be committed. Two years is a long time but time enough to have overcome the obstacles, the changes in rapport, the delays, the inconveniences, etc.

The Rules of the Game Changed

We never knew this would last this long. The culture changed and the industry had to go a long way toward creating a new company culture that people continued to be attracted to and fulfilled by.

In times of difficulties, heartaches, deaths, sickness – how does the company respond? COVID has affected many. I remember when it seemed so far-fetched and no one in my family had reported having the infection. And now? It seems odd that someone wouldn’t have contracted the disease – whether fully vaccinated or not.

During COVID, we have had to create a working environment in which there are no surprises. No surprises for managers focused on coordinating the work of people who are all contributing to a given deadline or overall company objective.

No surprises for your employees, who naturally want to do something according to the rules and just as naturally are resistant and resentfully frustrated when the rules are changed without their knowledge due to an unknown and frightening situation like the pandemic.

And no surprises for your customers, who come to you again and again with expectations that the positive experience that brought them back will be repeated.

COVID was surprise enough!

Who was/is involved (within and surrounding) the pharmaceutical industry?

There is no place for ambiguity. All hands on deck were required: vast collaboration from researchers, biologists, virologists, economists, engineers, statisticians, psychologists, etc. There are so many people behind the scenes we aren’t aware of.

What else did the pharmaceutical industry do? It created an environment for well-attended online conferences, telephone calls, writing articles, training webinars and courses. But it also provided epidemiological surveillance, genome sequencing, vaccine development, and greater scientific knowledge in a blink of an eye. Never has science seen pharmaceutical development occurring so quickly and so efficiently.

It formed and created focused teams, developed working groups, established social media platforms, avoided rapid and unorthodox channels of communication – told us when information was fake news and pushed for truthful scientific productivity.

Not only were in-office staff members limited regarding contact with each other but production plants also had back-logged due to limited supplies and a lack of distribution mechanisms in this new realm. Because we depend on medications and devices as everyday consumers, there was often a loss of being able to purchase common drugs used. This in itself, in addition to not leaving our homes because we were scared of getting infected with the virus, contributed to not being adequately treated.

Two years have passed and we are slowly returning to “normality,” although we can still be surprised by new viral variants. Great progress has been made – testing is common ground for all – authorized kits are available for home use, face masks have become a part of our daily ensemble, and vaccines are moving to a more scheduled requirement. We’re now up to a recommended second booster for those 50 and older in certain cases. 

Will we go back to the way we used to live? Will the pharmaceutical industry be the same?

Normality in the future will never be what and how we lived in the past. The pharmaceutical industry has now shifted its interest to vaccine development, device production for more precise detection of the virus and switched to designing treatments for viral infections. It now seems all viral infections are in everyone’s pipeline.

Over 50,000 articles have been published on COVID-19 in the last two years – only to make us realize the amount of scientific production worldwide. Pharmaceutical companies are now conducting research worldwide – their focus has changed dramatically in search of a betterment of our lives beyond COVID-19. In certain cases, and instances, the pharmaceutical companies have come together and worked in a team effort to combat worldwide diseases.

If we all pull together and recognize that this is the time to put health first, above all other considerations, we can overcome this difficult and challenging moment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to encourage individuals to take care of their own health and protect others by:

  • washing hands frequently with water and soap or using hand-sanitizing gel;
  • maintaining social distancing (keeping a distance of 1.5 meters between yourself and anyone else, especially those who are coughing or sneezing);
  • avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
  • following respiratory hygiene (covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, then disposing of the used tissue immediately);
  • seek medical care early if you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing; and
  • stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider, national and local public health authority, or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

This doesn’t seem to be over yet. Let’s not let down our guard. It may be a while until we are really freed from this turmoil.

This pandemic exposed the fragility and faults in each layer of our lives – from our innermost circle of family and friends to the nation state at the periphery.

We all switched to:

  • staying at home;
  • limited border controls – no traveling;
  • strict hygiene campaigns;
  • provided accessible testing;
  • contact tracing – a history of contagion. We were/are still being watched. Epidemiology does that.

Everything has changed:

  • we were given the power of owning our time, or were we?
  • we required emotional support – we were closed in for months – no socializing, no contact;
  • we needed and established interdependence – online and by several means of communication;
  • we lost physical contact;
  • we were socially isolated/distanced;
  • we were forced to wear a mask;
  • we became part of vaccination training campaigns;
  • we provided care and resources to vulnerable community members, etc.

However, for every bleak future, there’s a hopeful one. We know that taking care of others is taking care of ourselves.

Are we over COVID-19? We haven’t finished vaccinating the world. We aren’t done yet.