Need To Reduce The Immunization Gap Dominates A Summit Of Experts

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Abu Dhabi’s HOPE Consortium and world-leading experts marked the end of The World Immunisation & Logistics Summittoday by pledging to close the global immunization gap.

Through a series of key discussions with global healthcare professionals, philanthropists, decision-makers, and senior government officials, the consensus was formed that innovation, ingenuity, and inclusiveness are key to finding a global solution to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring equitable access to vaccines for all.

H.E. Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed, Chairman, Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, delivered the opening address titled ‘Innovation, ingenuity, and inclusiveness: Finding the human solution to a global challenge’. He spoke of the pace at which countries and communities had collaborated since the pandemic began. “In 2020 and so far this year, the COVID-19 global pandemic continues to be one of the largest and most complex global challenges in modern times. It’s incredible how the world has come together to tackle this issue that transcends communities, borders, and continents,” he said.

Discussing the resilience and success that the world has shown, the Chairman said: “There are incredible technology and scientific advancements that have been developed as a result of the pandemic. Under one unified goal, countries around the world are working tirelessly to find solutions.”

Speaking of the achievements of Abu Dhabi and the HOPE Consortium to date, H.E. Abdullah explained: “We strongly believe no one can do this alone. Together, we have a capacity to handle over six billion doses of the vaccine this year, and we are already increasing this to deliver over 18 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, with the capacity to deliver this anywhere in the world. We believe the HOPE Consortium is a catalyst for even greater collaboration with partners worldwide.”

“No one is out of this pandemic until everyone is out of this pandemic,” he concluded.

Robert Mardini, Director-General International Committee of the Red Cross then delivered a keynote address on ‘Equitable access to vaccines’, during which he said:“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that global solidarity is not only morally right but strategically smart. The worst could be yet to come, for all of us, unless we succeed in ensuring equitable access to the vaccine in every part of the globe. Let us hope that the spirit of humanity and unity bringing different sectors together at this Summit will be an example for the international community everywhere.”

The first panel of the day themed ‘Demand planning, preparedness and overcoming challenges in vaccine administration, began with distinguished global experts that included Prof. Nachman Ash, COVID-19 National Coordinator, Israel;  Nadhim Zahawi MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister for COVID Vaccine Deployment- UK; Dr. Farida Al Hosani, Official Spokesperson UAE Health Sector and  Manager, Communicable Disease Department, Abu Dhabi Public Health Center; and Rashed Saif Al Qubaisi, CEO Rated.

These experts addressed the best ways to coordinate and overcome the challenges of a mass global COVID-19 immunization program, and discussed lessons learned from regional vaccination efforts. In particular, the group spoke about how COVID-19 has tested the preparedness and responsiveness of healthcare systems around the world. These healthcare systems now face an unprecedented challenge as countries work to secure vaccines for their citizens in order to achieve mass immunization as quickly as possible.

The ‘Focus on the Middle East: Coordinating vaccine logistics operations in the Middle East’ panellooked at how remote and conflict areas will be able to gain access to the vaccine., with the Middle East region being home to some of the highest inoculation rates in the world. The panelists examined vaccine program implementations, the region’s ongoing challenges, and how they are being addressed. Finally, the panelists discussed the role the Middle East can play in supporting the efficient and effective delivery of vaccines to other parts of the world.

Panelists for this session included: H.E. Dr. Mariam Ibrahim Al Hajeri, Assistant Undersecretary of Public Health Ministry of Health, Bahrain; H.E. Dr. Hani Jokhdar, Undersecretary of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia; H.E Dr. Hussain Abdul Rahman Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centers and Clinics and Public Health, Ministry of Health and Prevention, UAE; Simon Bland, CEO, the Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE); and Dr. Rana Hajjeh, Director of Programme Management, WHO-EMRO.

The importance of supply chain partnerships in bridging geographical gaps and overcoming financial and infrastructural challenges was the main topic of discussion during the ‘Focus on Africa: Overcoming complex logistical challenges to ensure equitable access to vaccinations across Africa’ panel. With an estimated total population of more than 1.2 billion people across 54 countries, Africa presents a significant funding and logistical challenge for authorities and NGOs working to ensure equitable access to vaccines across all communities. The panel discussed how supply chains can provide vaccine access to the continent, with perspectives from a range of experts including the Hon. Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health of Nigeria; Sen. Mutahi Kagwe EGH – Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health, Republic of Kenya; David Hadley, CEO, Mediclinic Middle East; Kashif Khalid, Regional Director- Africa & Middle East, IATA; and Bruce Mokaya Oriana, ICRC Head of Delegation in Addis and Permanent Representative to the Africa Union.

The final panel discussion of day two of the Summit was ‘Focus on Asia: Vaccine production and distribution across Asia’.

Panelists in this session included: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, and Chairman, Executive Board, World Health Organization; Madhav Kurup, Regional CEO MESA, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics; and Dr. Pascal Rey-Herme, Co-Founder and Group Medical Director, International SOS.

The panelists shed light on the latest developments in vaccine production throughout the region. The panel discussed the current challenges facing distribution, and how further collaboration and partnership agreements can help overcome supply chain bottlenecks, especially as they relate to reaching remote and hard-to-reach areas. With millions of doses already dispatched, the current challenges facing distribution around the region, and how further collaboration and partnership agreements support the overall performance of the supply chain.

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