U.A.E. Determined to Accelerate COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution to Low and Middle Income Countries

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March 23, 2021

Representatives of the U.A.E. Government, the HOPE Consortium, and the Dubai Vaccine Logistics Alliance (DVLA) spoke of their critical efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines globally during a U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council webinar held on 23 March 2021. A video of the webinar can be found here.

In a conversation moderated by Mr. Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council, Shaima Gargash, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.A.E. Embassy in Washington DC, said that the U.A.E. took decisive measures during the pandemic to leverage its strategic location and logistics infrastructure to help not just its citizens, but other countries as well. She added that “The Dubai Vaccine Logistics Alliance & Abu Dhabi’s Hope Consortium are excellent examples of what is possible when we come together to work towards a common goal.” 

Speaking on behalf of the DVLA, Dennis Lister, Vice President of Cargo Commercial Development at Emirates Sky Cargo, emphasized that the cornerstone of the Alliance’s mission is helping other countries. Lister added that with the U.A.E. being 3-hour flight from nearly 2 billion people, Dubai’s leadership wanted to ensure that their response to the pandemic was a global collective one that did not take borders into account. He said that many unanticipated challenges arose in the pandemic, and that Emirates SkyCargo had to learn quickly from the depths, as every day, dollar, and vaccine matters in the global response to the pandemic. He noted that the DVLA currently transports approximately 650 tons of food and 250 tons of pharmaceuticals each day. 

Likewise, Julian Sutch, the Head of Global Sales-Pharma at Emirates SkyCargo,  stated that one of the biggest global issues in tackling the pandemic was vaccine storage in developing countries. However, the Dubai Vaccine Logistics Alliance was able to utilize the extensive networks of DP World, International Humanitarian City, Dubai Airports, and Emirates SkyCargo to work with international organizations and NGOs and to move vaccines from their origin to wherever they are needed. 

Representing the HOPE Consortium, Dr. Omar Najim, Executive Office Director at the Department of Health-Abu Dhabi, asserted that the U.A.E. continues to prove itself as one of the main logistical hubs in the world, and that the two aid entities are making a real difference in the global response to the pandemic. He added that the HOPE Consortium was born out of the realization that vaccination was the key element in getting out of the pandemic, and that vaccinations were a complex issue with nearly 8 billion shots needed to be administered globally to defeat the pandemic. With that knowledge in hand that each shot counts, the HOPE Consortium has been working with partners from the U.A.E. and around the world to make sure not a single vaccine is harmed in the distribution phase. He listed key partners as Abu Dhabi Ports, SkyCell, Rafed, the Department of Health Abu Dhabi, and leading airlines, above all Abu Dhabi’s national carrier Etihad Airways.

Robert Sutton, Head of Logistics Cluster at Abu Dhabi Ports, another key member of the HOPE Consortium, spoke of the group’s efforts to create both a physical and digital supply chain for vaccine distribution. Doing so ensured that all vaccines are accounted for and head to the right place, from manufacturer to the patient. He added that “We created the region’s largest freezer farm with capacity between 11-15 million doses. That is more than the U.A.E. needs. We did that for 1 reason: This is not a U.A.E. solution, it is a global solution.”

When asked about the U.A.E.’s global leadership efforts in public health, Shaima Gargash stated that the U.A.E. has always taken an approach of collaboration, and will continue to do so, ​referencing the U.A.E.’s partnerships with both the Gates Foundation and Carter Foundation to eradicate diseases. Dr. Najim mentioned the 29 March World Immunization and Logistics Summit, which is being held virtually and organized by the HOPE Consortium, as a testament to the work that the U.A.E. is doing on a global scale. The heads of international organizations, such as GAVI, the WHO, and COVAX will be participating in the conference in the hope of fostering further collaborations in global health. 

Responding to a question about how American health entities can fit into the U.A.E.’s global response,  both Julian Sutch and Robert Sutton agreed that these businesses have an essential role in combatting the pandemic on a global scale, and that the two U.A.E. entities are in constant communication to ensure that vaccines are moved to market at a rate that the market can maintain and handle, especially in developing countries. 

Stressing that “There is so much to be done”, Dennis Lister added that both the Dubai Vaccine Logistics Alliance and the Hope Consortium share similar goals, and that the U.A.E. is deeply invested in getting vaccines to people on a global scale. ​Dr. Najim seconded this sentiment, and he spoke about the close collaboration between the U.A.E. Ministry of Health and Prevention, the Dubai Health Authority, and the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi in the U.A.E.’s exemplary COVID-19 response. 

In his closing remarks, Danny Sebright lauded hat the spirit of cooperation between the two entities. He added that the Business Council recently launched a Health Care Task Force, which is dedicated to bringing together American and Emirati healthcare and pharmaceutical entities with the goal of aiding the global vaccine response and further health-related cooperation between the U.S. and U.A.E. 

For more information about the Business Council’s Health Care Task Force, please contact Mr. Ameer Alsamman at aalsamman@usuaebusiness.org.

For more information about the Business Council’s slate of upcoming events, please contact the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council’s head of communications, Ms. Mary Zuccarello at mzuccarello@usuaebusiness.org or visit our website at www.usuaebusiness.org