Pharma chief urges transparency in virus vaccine rollout

TOKYO (AFP) – Pharmaceutical firms must be “very transparent” about the risks and benefits of vaccines in efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic, the head of Asia’s largest drugmaker told AFP.

Takeda, one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, is not developing its own vaccine but has contracts with several firms to distribute their jabs in Japan and is also testing a virus treatment.

“We have to manage the situation well, be very transparent and extremely educative in the way we introduce products,” Chief Executive Christophe Weber told AFP in an interview.

“Medicines or vaccines are never perfect… there are always some side effects,” said Weber, who joined Takeda in 2014 and took the top job a year later after nearly two decades at Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline. But he is optimistic the industry can explain the risks and benefits properly.

The Frenchman even sees a chance that the inoculation could help push back the growing tide of uncertainty and outright opposition to vaccination worldwide.

“It will be interesting to see. Vaccine hesitancy is strong, especially in some countries, but many vaccines are protecting against diseases that people never see,” he said.

“Here it is different, everybody is seeing the impact of the coronavirus… so it could actually re-demonstrate the value of vaccines.”

Takeda inked a deal with the Japanese government and United States (US) firm Moderna Therapeutics in October to import and distribute 50 million doses of its vaccine in Japan from the first part of 2021.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted emergency authorisation for the Moderna jab – the same permission already granted to the Pfizer/BioNTech version.