Returning to ‘normal’ life amid the COVID-19 pandemic will only happen if every single person in the world makes it their responsibility, health experts told a global online audience as Qatar Foundation’s Education City Speaker Series explored whether new vaccines can point the way to victory over the virus.
In a virtual discussion titled, An Injection of Hope: Do Vaccines Mean an End to the Pandemic Is in Sight?, hosted in collaboration with the World Innovation Summit for Health – representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO) and leaders of public health and vaccine science emphasised that everyone must play an ‘active role’ in defeating COVID-19 – not only by getting vaccinated but by continuing to follow health guidelines even after they received a vaccine.
The session also saw speakers drive home the importance of vaccine equity and warned that ‘nobody is safe until everyone is safe’.
Minimising the impact, scaling up the global response
Dr Abdullatif Mohammed Al Khal, Chairman of Qatar’s National Pandemic Preparedness Committee and Deputy Chief Medical Officer at Hamad Medical Corporation, told the platform that Qatar aims to vaccinate at least 90% of its vaccine-eligible population by the end of the year.
World leaders need to maintain strong political, social, and economic solidarity to scale up the global response and minimise the impact of the pandemic, says WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al Mandhari.
Rich countries have the full capability to make sure their citizens are vaccinated, but we should not let those in low-resource countries go without vaccination.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti told the discussion that it had been ‘disappointing and painful’ to see worldwide disparities in vaccine distribution.
It’s important that all countries, irrespective of their economic situation, share vaccines and share data because that is the only way of bringing this pandemic under control.
He said that fairer distribution and support from wealthy countries is vital to ensuring that low- and middle-income countries are not left behind in the vaccine drive. Research shows that ensuring equitable access will save up to US$500 billion globally and afford protection to all economies.
Qatar aims to vaccinate over 100,000 people each week to meet the country’s goal of vaccinating the majority of the population against COVID-19 by the end of the year. According to Dr Al Khal, one of the challenges is ramping up the vaccination programme and allocating the necessary resources to reach that goal.
Among these challenges, he said, had been an ‘initial shortage of supply’ with global production unable to keep up with demand. And even as the vaccine rollout intensifies, he stressed the need to recognise that the battle against COVID-19 is everyone’s battle.
In order for us to control the pandemic and gradually start to go back to normal life, every member of every community in every country should feel that they have an active role in fighting COVID-19 and that they each have an individual responsibility.
Everyone should not hesitate to get the vaccine when their time comes, but should continue to follow the preventative measures even after getting the vaccine.
The session – moderated by journalist and TV presenter Kirsty Wark – also featured other healthcare experts and practitioners who discussed vaccine development, and the efforts needed to combat and avoid future waves of infection.
For more information about the Education City Speaker Series, visit qf.org.qa.
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