Hope Consortium: Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed: Covid-19 vaccine must be available without discrimination

The minister tells the logistics group summit that doses must be more evenly distributed between rich and poor countries

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The coronavirus has tightly bonded the world's nations together - and they must work together to overcome the pandemic, the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said countries including the Emirates recognised their responsibility to help others.

The minister spoke at an online conference organised by the Hope Consortium, an Abu Dhabi-based logistics group set up to deliver vaccines across the globe.

"A year after discovering the pandemic, we as an international community have become certain now that the nations' prosperity can be accomplished with joined efforts and cooperation with other countries," he said.

We believe that every person has the right to obtain the vaccine without discrimination

"The whole world has become bonded in a tight way and our plight has become one now - in a way that international health security depends now on the well-being of all societies."

He told attendees that about 1,000 experts, entities and public and private companies now form the consortium, which includes major logistics companies such as Etihad Cargo.

Its work will ensure "fair access the vaccines... and developing real solutions to the logistics challenges that we have to defeat to go back to a normal situation again".

He said: "The UAE, which is considered a leading international logistics hub, has played a pivotal role to ensure countries are supplied with the essential materials to get out of this crisis.

"We acted fast to provide medical supplies and food aids to all the world. This is thanks to its international infrastructure, its logistical capacity and its close geographical location to Africa, Asia and Europe.

In this photo released by Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service, UAE's Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan gestures during a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)
Sheikh Abdullah, pictured at a recent event, spoke hours after UAE struck a deal to begin production of Sinopharm in the Emirates. AP

"In the UAE, we believe that every person has the right to obtain the vaccine without discrimination.

"At the onset of Covid-19, the UAE has acted fast so that every citizen and resident is tested and treated."

Sheikh Abdullah spoke less than 24 hours after the UAE struck a deal with China to develop the Sinopharm vaccine in the Emirates.

The shots went in to immediate production at Emirati drug maker Julphar's plant in Ras Al Khaimah.

It was also confirmed that a new vaccine plant will be set up in Abu Dhabi's Kizad freezone to produce the shots - made under the name Hayat-Vax.

The two-day Hope Consortium event will focus on the global distribution of vaccines to tackle the pandemic.

Attendees later heard from Jose Manuel Barroso, the former prime minister of Portugal and former president of the European Commission.

Mr Barroso is now chair of the board of the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, a leader in the Covax drive to ensure developing countries get access to Covid-19 vaccines.

He said progress had been made to ensure poorer countries get shipments, but that hurdles lie ahead.

Mr Barroso used the example of India, which even as a major manufacturer of vaccines, was 63 days behind the UK in its roll-out of the vaccine.

Rich nations must 'dose share' with poorer ones

"And outside of India, which is one of the biggest producers of vaccines, through Covax it took 83 days for the first vaccines - when compared with the UK - to come through Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire in Africa."

He said the situation was better than in previous pandemics, when it may have taken years to reach poorer nations - but that more must be done.

"Still they are behind. We have to be honest about this," he said.

"We have a real problem of inequality.

"And one of the solutions we have to think, besides the private sector, is dose sharing by the rich countries.

"The rich countries have accumulated huge surpluses of vaccines. Most likely they will not need them.

"And so we are already working with them to see if we can do in a relatively coordinated manner, a dose sharing mechanism for those countries - which have four or five times more vaccines than what they need."

Speakers include Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, Stanley Erck, president and chief executive of drug maker Novavax.

Since its establishment late last year, the Hope Consortium has delivered 20 million vaccines to 26 countries.