Ramadan Majlis: vaccination drive a 'miracle' but world must unite to defeat pandemic

Efforts to overcome global health threats were on the agenda at the second Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Ramadan Majlis of the year

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The rise of the Covid-19 pandemic has shown the world must unite to overcome health threats and eradicate disease, the latest Ramadan Majlis heard.

Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, a member of Abu Dhabi's Executive Council, highlighted the importance of international collaboration during talks with health experts and a leading minister.

Titled ‘Safer and Stronger Together: Improving Global Health and Wellbeing', the majlis centred on the crucial need for nations to be prepared for health challenges and to work together to safeguard lives.

“If the pandemic has proven anything, it is that the world can only face diseases and outbreaks by coming together," said Sheikh Hamed during the Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Ramadan Majlis on Monday.

"Our best bet is to continue collaborating across borders to lay solid foundations for action, encourage the exchange of expertise between countries, and rally international efforts to face any health challenges that may arise in the future.”

Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation, said the UAE had exemplified this spirit of partnership through its support of global Covid-19 vaccination drives and its efforts to eradicate polio.

“The UAE has always been at the forefront of efforts through its initiatives and fieldwork under the guidance of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who made the concept of ‘reaching the last mile’ a top priority of the UAE’s Agenda for Sustainable Development," she said.

"The UAE was also able to translate this trend in the spirit of collective responsibility into a rapid response as it started to ship and deliver medical aid and equipment for various uses and, most importantly, the urgent distribution of vaccines through the Coalition of Hope.”

Dr Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who is chairman of the advisory board for the Ending Pandemics organisation, said the world was witnessing a 'miracle' in terms of the rapid vaccine distribution seen in recent months.

"This is a horrible disease, we lost loved ones, this is not a disease of numbers, this is real life," he said.

"Right now we are witnessing miracles, we are witnessing the greatest vaccination campaign in human history, but we are not going to be able to vaccinate 7.5 billion people, and during this time hundreds of people will be infected.

"So we need to have a backup plan, which is, first, [to] find every case, then test them with genomic testing and sequencing so we can know what variant and do what the UAE has been doing, which is contact tracing."

Dr Maha Barakat, director general of the Frontline Heroes Office, spoke of the world's success in making smallpox a disease of the past and the ambitious attempts to eradicate malaria.

Abdullah Khalifa Al Ghafli, director of the UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme, praised the Emirates Polio Campaign for its efforts to help eradicate polio in Pakistan.

The virtual Ramadan series, held each Monday during the holy month, aims to promote learning and reflection.