The pandemic that is shaping us

Meet some of our most experienced vaccine experts who reflect on the global effort to develop, distribute, and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.

Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 is one of the most ambitious and important global health efforts of modern times. We have seen an accelerated pace of development, with vaccines arriving four times faster than prior vaccines. We have also seen an unprecedented scale of rollout globally, although it has been uneven. As the pandemic continues to evolve, some countries are now on the path to recovery and others are continuing to face challenges.

A broad range of institutions are collaborating in this historic effort to develop, distribute, and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. We are proud to play a small role in supporting these efforts. We have drawn upon decades of experience in global public health, led by more than 300 colleagues who bring deep expertise in public health, in-country delivery and rollout, immunology, clinical development, operations, and supply chains.

We are just at the beginning of the road to recovery, and real challenges continue to impact the lives and livelihoods of people around the world. As COVID-19 evolves, we asked some of our experts to share their perspectives on their experiences, the challenges that lie ahead, and the pandemic that is shaping us.

Our experts


I chose to focus my work on vaccines and infectious diseases because it’s been a long-standing passion of mine. I hold a PhD in immunology, and so supporting clients who focus on innovation in this space is something that I’ve dedicated a large portion of my life to.

Jennifer Heller Partner, Chicago

Achieving the impossible in vaccine innovation

Specializing in pharmaceuticals, vaccines, and infectious diseases, McKinsey partner Jennifer Heller discusses her previous work in helping clients develop vaccines, assisting in shaping clinical development strategies, and the impact that COVID-19 has had on bringing vaccines to market.

Getting to work: Employers’ role in COVID-19 vaccination

– Employers can consider a set of actions that supports COVID-19-vaccine adoption among employees by building conviction and making... vaccination as convenient and “costless” as possible.

A light at the end of the tunnel: US COVID-19 vaccine administration

– More than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began, a line of sight exists that promises enough vaccine for every eligible adult... in the United States. This breakthrough offers hope, but also underscores an urgent need to plan the next phase of distribution and beyond.

I’ve always been passionate about the intersection of science, business, and patients. For more than a decade, I’ve focused on how clients can bring scientific breakthroughs more efficiently to patients.

Gaurav Agrawal Partner, New York

Working across the COVID-19 ecosystem

McKinsey partner Gaurav Agrawal reflects on his work in the past year in vaccine therapeutics and breakthrough science for healthcare, considering the efforts and innovations that have evolved during a difficult and short timeframe.

Fast-forward: Will the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development reset industry norms?

– A review of the funding, operational, technological, and regulatory factors that allowed for fast development of COVID-19 vaccines... shows which will remain relevant for future efforts—and which won’t.

Biopharma 2020: A landmark year and a reset for the future

– Biopharma in 2020 has shown what it can achieve when it works at its best. How can the industry build on this renewed sense of... purpose in the years ahead?

I’m really proud of being part of making sure that the vaccines reach everybody in the world and not just the high-income countries. It requires global collaboration and there is more to do in making this a reality.

Tania Holt Partner, London

Seeking global solutions for a global pandemic

Having previously worked in Nigeria on the eradication of polio, McKinsey partner Tania Holt deeply understands the outsized impact on the lives of people around the world when different institutions and countries work together.

Africa needs vaccines. What would it take to make them here?

– For decades, private companies, investors, and public-health leaders have taken a pass on domestic vaccine manufacturing. But... a confluence of circumstances may be changing the calculation.

The COVID-19 vaccines are here: What comes next?

– Countries must prepare now for the largest simultaneous global public-health initiative ever undertaken.

I think we’ll reflect back 20 years from now and say this was a warning sign of something bigger that can come, and there’s going to be a real catalyst that comes out of COVID-19.

Adam Sabow Senior Partner, Chicago

Catalyzing and changing our preparedness for the future

A senior partner in our Chicago office, Adam Sabow has spent the past 20 years working in the public health space to help control vaccine-preventable diseases. Utilizing this knowledge in the current fight against COVID-19, Adam reflects on the experience so far—but also the risks, difficulties, and opportunities that lie ahead.

When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?

– The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly. What does it hold in store? Our analysis offers some scenarios to understand potential... outcomes. We also look at the effects of boosters, the potential waning of vaccine efficacy, and new oral therapeutics.

On pins and needles: Tracking COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics

– Key stakeholders will need to continue to monitor and adapt to new data and new variants emerging across the globe to respond... effectively.

I care about meeting people’s unmet needs. In developed countries, I've spent time working on vaccines that prevent illnesses that cause mortality in old people and in developing countries, addressing diseases affecting children.

Michael Conway Senior Partner, Philadelphia

Changing the infectious disease landscape through vaccines

Having previously worked on a range of vaccine rollouts in over three decades, senior partner Michael Conway looks at how his early career experiences helped to influence his work in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the next steps now being taken.

COVID-19 vaccines meet 100 million uncertain Americans

– More than 100 million Americans are uncertain about vaccination. Public- and private-sector leaders can take action to support... adoption, including incremental investment in the range of $10 billion.

Refueling the innovation engine in vaccines

– Vaccine development has slowed over the past five years, but changes to investment strategies and a shift in focus to more technical... and complex vaccines could renew the innovation engine.

There are many aspects of the science, and of the public health and epidemiology literature, to consider, which we bring as a fact base to support meaningful decisions our clients make that impact people’s lives every single day.

Pooja Kumar Partner, Philadelphia

Considering every aspect of society

With her medical training and extensive experience as a McKinsey partner, Pooja Kumar discusses the immense human and social toll that the pandemic has had on the globe as well as the constructive outcomes of collaboration, innovation, meaningful decision-making, and agile thinking.

“Getting shots into arms”: How US states are addressing the vaccine distribution challenge

– COVID-19 vaccine administration represents a significant challenge: States can accelerate progress through five lessons including... establishing, enabling, and managing administration capacity.

Rebuilding clinician mental health and well-being after COVID 19

– The pandemic has exacerbated existing issues around the mental health of healthcare workers. Providers can learn from other industries... to develop an integrated framework promoting overall well-being.

The biggest risk I see is inequity. Of course, we have certain populations and certain environments running ahead, as fast as they can, but in the end, nobody’s safe until everybody’s safe from the pandemic.

Lieven Van der Veken Senior Partner, Geneva

Setting ambitious goals to address vaccine access

Lieven Van der Veken, senior partner at McKinsey, is a physician by training and has expertise in global public health. Having led our European team for many years, he has worked on a broad range of public health issues with a focus on vaccine development and deployment as well as pandemic and epidemic situations, globally.

The COVID-19 vaccine: Lessons and challenges

– The rapid deployment of vaccines is key in accelerating the return to normalcy.

Not the last pandemic: Investing now to reimagine public-health systems

– The COVID-19 crisis reminds us how underprepared the world was to detect and respond to emerging infectious diseases. Smart investments... of as little as $5 per person per year globally can help ensure far better preparation for future pandemics.


COVID Response Center

Collaboration and knowledge sharing are critical to safeguard lives and livelihoods amid COVID-19. The COVID Response Center draws on what McKinsey and others have learned to provide leaders with resources to help reset their organizations and communities.

Coronavirus vaccines progress: What’s next?

The rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccines is having a profound effect on the world. This collection takes a closer look at the development, rollout and future of vaccines.

Healthcare Systems & Services

Discover how our team of consultants works with healthcare leaders to deliver better care, increase quality of life, and improve global outcomes.

Public & Social Sector

We work with social sector and government organizations to improve the lives of citizens worldwide by helping solve the most pressing economic and social challenges.

Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products

Learn how our consultants work with innovators in pharmaceuticals and medical products to ask the right questions, provide insights, and deliver results.