The best Covid-19 vaccine is the one available.
This is the parting message from Dr Rakesh Suri, chief executive at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, who is leaving his post at the end of the month to lead Cleveland Clinic's international operations.
He will hand over the reins to Dr Jorge Guzman, the hospital's chief of staff since 2017, responsible for physician recruitment and clinical operations for the hospital, which is part of Mubadala Health.
"The small differences in vaccines generally are not material enough, from our perspective, to have people wait," Dr Suri told The National.
"The best vaccine is the vaccine that you can get the quickest to protect you, your family and the community."
He said that the "tipping point" to return to normal would be an 80 per cent to 90 per cent vaccination rate.
Dr Guzman said he does not expect normality to return until 2022, a sentiment with which Dr Suri agrees.
Reflecting on a year on the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Suri said: "It was in some ways worse than we expected and in other ways it was better. I believe that emerging from this we are going to be in a very strong position in ushering in a new era of innovation and collaboration globally."
He said that "the level of collaboration, of compassion, of humanity that we've seen, not only in Abu Dhabi but across the UAE and around the world, in many ways, has allowed us to accomplish more in medicine than has ever been accomplished before".
One of the biggest hospitals in the capital, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi began taking Covid-19 patients in March 2020, erecting a tent outside its emergency department to screen anyone arriving with symptoms.
Inside, the hospital was reconfigured in the emergency department to isolate suspected patients and to treat those with the virus to ensure they do not come into contact with others.
Because of these efforts, Dr Suri said the hospital never had to redeploy any resources to confront Covid-19, in contrast with other medical centres around the world that had to cancel procedures and shut speciality centres to cope with patients afflicted with the virus.
"They needed to repurpose their resources to care for the sickest of the sick, or dying in some cases on hospital doorsteps, in ambulances, in emergency departments because they couldn't receive the care they needed in time.
"Thankfully, we've never been in that situation at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and certainly not in the UAE," he said.
"In contrast to what we've seen globally, we've been in the fortunate position of being able to get tenure to deliver innovative, co-ordinated, patient-centric care. We're very, very grateful for the leadership of the nation for putting us in this position."
Dr Guzman elaborated on his vision for the hospital when he assumes his new role on March 31.
"We are at the stage where we need to quickly grow research, education and innovation," he said. The hospital will soon offer experimental treatments, or those still in research phases, he said.
"This will mean fewer patients have to go abroad when they have exhausted their treatment options in the UAE."
He said that the hospital would continue to focus on cutting-edge technologies – where Cleveland Clinic made its name – with a focus on new cardiac procedures, oncology treatments and new robotic procedures to do more complex surgeries in a minimally invasive way.
Opened in 2015, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi performed the UAE’s first full heart transplant in 2017, and last year surgeons successfully completed the country's first pancreas transplant.