“The past few months were hard on us,” says Stathis Mihos, Pfizer’s Legal Director for Greece, Israel, Malta, and Cyprus.
“Pfizer is, among other companies, involved in making the COVID-19 vaccine, which is challenging from a legal perspective," Mihos says. "It’s a unique situation, to say the least, and we have mentally prepared ourselves for it. Apart from that, we had to change the way we work, and get ourselves ready for a complete change of the systems we were previously used to.”
Unsurprisingly, Mihos reports that the last months have been full of challenges regarding labor law, regulatory and safety issues, and privacy issues. Once the company cautiously and partially returned to the office, Mihos reports that his team “had to ensure everyone was safe at the workplace, which is always a priority. The biggest thing that is currently going on is our involvement on the local level, which means supporting our business in discussions with the local authorities for the preparation for the potential sale of the vaccine being developed. The vaccine would have to get the approval of the authorities and we are currently doing the preparatory work which, once the vaccine is approved, will enable us to sell it, if the clinical trial goes well. The point is we need to get this part done now, so that, if the vaccine does eventually come out, no additional time is wasted, and the field is prepared for its sale almost immediately.”
Mihos knows that all in-house lawyers in the region are facing similar problems nowadays. “We all have to switch from the traditional way of working," he says, "to focus more on helping the business operations run smoothly and profitably, while ensuring everything is done lawfully, especially in this situation, where legislation changes rapidly and so much is still uncertain.” Some businesses have had a harder time than others, he says, so had to face issues such as layoffs, but in general problems are almost the same for everybody. “Governments have implemented a lot of new legislation to help businesses stay afloat," he says, "but from a legal perspective, that means a lot of work, to apply all of that. To put it mildly, this meant creating additional work for lawyers, on top of the day job we already had.”
“The near future will not change in any major way, and we will have to live under these 'abnormal' circumstances,” Mihos adds. However, he believes that “the actual creation and sale of the vaccine, be it ours or from any other company, could be a real game-changer which will finally create a sense of normality. Having that in mind, it’s important to note that even then, things will never be completely the same as we were used to. That includes legal work because as business changes, we will have to change too. We all will need to get used to making ourselves as flexible as possible, in terms of how we work and the way we interact."
He smiles. "This is tough for us because as lawyers, we don’t embrace change with open hands. At the end of the day, the sooner we adapt, the better!”