Vaccine distribution efforts are giving us hope

Many believe the discovery of new Covid-19 vaccines will mark the beginning of end of the pandemic. But there is still more work to do

epa08847450 Javier Pardino, manager of the Becton Dickinson company plant in Fraga (Huesca), shows a vaccine injection device manufactured to administer the coronavirus vaccine, in Fraga, Huesca, Spain, 28 November 2020. The Becton Dickinson (BD) plant in the Aragones town has already manufactured more than 400 million syringes for the vaccination process.  EPA/Javier Cebollada
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In recent weeks, the world has welcomed the developments around a series of Covid-19 vaccines. Their discovery means the most immediate impediment to global post-pandemic recovery is behind us.

The rush to develop vaccines also generated interest in the human stories of these breakthroughs. Perhaps the most notable example was the German husband and wife “power couple” who were responsible for the Pfizer vaccine.

These individuals now have their place in history. But for those working on the next phase of the fight against Covid-19, fame from individual success is unlikely. Instead, the many thousands involved in the upcoming vaccination programme will be part of a mass, but still heroic global effort.

The next phase is primarily logistical, because achieving mass immunisation does not just rest on a vaccine. It also requires complex and carefully managed strategies on the purchase, storage, allocation and transportation of jabs.

A container carrying doses of the CoronaVac vaccine is unloaded from a cargo plane that arrived from China at Guarulhos International Airport in Guarulhos, near Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 19, 2020. Brazil received this Thursday the first lot with 120,000 doses of the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by the Chinese laboratory Sinovac Biotech. / AFP / NELSON ALMEIDA
The Hope Consortium is working on strategies to immunise the world as efficiently as possible. AFP
The many thousands involved in the upcoming vaccination programme will be part of a heroic global effort

The Department of Health - Abu Dhabi has recognised this by creating the Hope Consortium. This group pools the wide-ranging expertise needed to address such a global logistical challenge.

Its ambitions are bold. Already, the consortium has this month provided storage and distribution for five million doses. By next year, it aims to store and transport more than six billion.

Members of the new group include Etihad Cargo, Abu Dhabi Ports Company, Rafed – a group purchasing unit created by Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company that will oversee vaccine procurement – and SkyCell, a Switzerland-based specialist in temperature-controlled containers, which keep vaccines safe as they are transported around the world.

The consortium will involve many hundreds, if not thousands, of people. It represents the importance of multilateralism in the next stage of the fight against Covid-19. It is also a good example of what public-private partnerships can achieve when they work together, in this instance, the major task of immunising as large a share of the population as possible, as quickly as possible.

This is important because true immunisation is reached only when vaccination programmes span the globe. When they are concentrated in individual nations, recovery is unnecessarily delayed.

Unfortunately, many wealthy nations are going against this advice. Canada, for example, has acquired enough jabs to immunise each citizen five times over.

It also brings no social or economic benefits. “Vaccine nationalism” ignores the fact that economies, especially those of the richest nations, are globally connected. Quashing the virus worldwide, through well-orchestrated programmes, is the only way to revive markets. In contrast, patchy immunisation risks prolonging the immense damage the pandemic has inflicted on our economies.

It would also prevent our societies returning to normal. All over the world, people shoulder social burdens, particularly those with physical and mental health conditions, the young, who have had their education and job prospects curtailed, and the elderly, many of whom are forced into isolation.

The work, therefore, of those involved in organisations such as the Hope Consortium is of enormous value and will create a much needed dynamic to get through this pandemic.

It will not be possible to thank individually those undertaking such crucial tasks. There are simply too many involved. Instead, we can thank the vision of organisations like Hope Consortium, to which these people contribute.

Isaac Newton famously observed that every scientist who advances their field is “standing on the shoulders of giants”. In this instance, the many giants across all industries and nations who work to immunise the world, will remain nameless. But they are united, and deserve our gratitude, for their determination to overcome the trauma of the pandemic.