Global immunization possible by 2022, WHO COVID-19 Special Envoy tells World Government Summit Dialogues

  • Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus: Vaccine nationalism will only prolong the pandemic, a human and economic suffering
  • H.E. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem issues challenge to global corporations to join vaccine distribution effort
  • Henrietta Holsman Fore: $1 billion needed to help poor countries access vaccines
  • HE President Macky Sall: While 525,000 Senegalese will get vaccine through COVAX, but 8 million need access
  • Dr Parag Khanna: pandemic has shifted hub of world economy to Asia
  • Sarah Al Amiri: development of private space sector in UAE crucial
  • Lord Martin Rees: Elon Musk’s notion of settling on Mars a dangerous delusion
  • Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: Shipping a billion people to another planet unrealistic

Dubai, UAE:  The final day of the World Government Summit Dialogues saw healthcare and political leaders from around the world explain the urgent requirement for an equitable vaccination distribution program that could see the entire population of the Earth immunized against COVID-19 by 2022.

A roster of high-profile guest speakers also discussed the perils of leaving poor countries behind as vaccine nationalism sets in, how the global economy has shifted towards Asia, the importance of powering the economic recovery with renewable energies to drive the global energy transition, and the possibilities and perils of space exploration, among other pressing topics.

The second day of the virtual event opened with a keynote from the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus. “Vaccine nationalism will only prolong the pandemic, and the human and economic suffering that goes with it,” he said.

“And although vaccines will help, we will still be left with many of the same challenges we had before. Health must be seen not as a cost to be contained but as an investment in productive and resilient populations, and a key to sustainable development.

“Health is not simply a product of strong and prosperous nations – it’s the foundation of social, economic, and political stability,” he added.

In keeping the global public health theme, the first session of the day, titled “Will the Earth’s Population Be Vaccinated by 2021?” His Excellency Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World, issued a challenge to global corporations to join vaccine distribution effort. “Until the vaccine is available to everyone, the pandemic will not end for anyone,” he said.

“I invite you to join UNICEF, the World Health Organization and DP World to make vaccines for all a reality. We can only do this together, with actions, not words, and commitment to a better future for all. Distributing COVID-19 vaccines is humanity’s biggest logistics challenge since the end of the Second World War,” Mr Bin Sulayem said.

Highlighting the urgent challenge for the West African nation of Senegal, President Macky Sall said: “While 525,000 people will get the vaccine through the COVAX initiative, we need to vaccinate eight million.”

The Senegalese President said the country has so far received 124,000 doses of the vaccine. Since mid-February, 65,000 people have been vaccinated. The government plans to vaccinate three percent of its frontline workers this year and up to 60 percent of its population in collaboration with the African Union by the end of the program.

For his part, Dr David Nabarro criticized the rampant nationalization and selfishness when it came to vaccine distribution and said global immunization would only be a possibility be the end of 2022 if all nations start pulling together. “While the COVAX effort is commendable, if a few countries take the majority of the supplies and leave minimal cash and vaccine supplies behind for the rest, this is not ethical,” he said.

The current “free-for-all” approach to vaccine supplies with “a small number of nations trying to outbid one another”, doesn’t work. But “fair access to vaccine for everybody, the objective for immunization, at least by 2022, is a reasonable prospect,” he said.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of UNICEF Fore said: “We have been asking the world for more funding […] for UNICEF and our distribution to countries we still need about $1 billion.

“We still need to do more – the UAE has supported the COVAX Facility in the actual distribution – in Ghana last week, it provided 2,500 fridges to help in the cold chain. We, as one world, need to ensure equitability, and although we are off to a good start with the target of 2 billion doses a year, it is likely to be at least end-2022 before we vaccinate a majority of the population – particularly in the least developed countries. Licensing is equally a challenge here.”

Following that, Rajesh Subramaniam, President and Chief Operating Officer of FedEx, explained how COVID has acted as innovation accelerator for logistics platforms, in discussion with CNBC’s Hadley Gamble.

“We have a bird’s eye view on global supply chain – as we currently move close to 20 million packages every single day. We see that supply chain patterns across the globe are evolving. Resilience is key and technology has a significant role to play in facilitating the demands of the global supply chain.

“A lot of companies are looking to not be single threaded in their global supply chains, they’re looking to diversify their manufacturing base from one country to two or three countries. Second, they’re trying to shorten their supply chains, get it closer to where their final sale is.”

Next up, His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, His Majesty the King’s Representative for Humanitarian Work and Youth Affairs in Bahrain, joined Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth for the session ‘Youth Powering the Next Decade’.

His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa said: “We are confident that the future will brim with opportunities for our young people. They are leading radical transformations in continuous and digital learning, self-education, and special education by adopting technologies that integrate education with entertainment, stimulate cooperation, and develop problem-solving skills.”

The next session, “Navigating 2020’s Data for A Prosperous 2021”, heard from Global Strategy Advisor and Founder of FutureMap, Dr Parag Khanna, in conversation with Saeed Al Gergawi, Director of Dubai Future Academy, on how the world economy will become increasingly Asia-centric.

“It was a disruptive year, and what needs to be emphasized is that the economic rebound in the Asian countries has been strong – almost all of them managed COVID better than the rest of the world. This prompts us to think that the world economy is becoming increasingly Asia-centric,” he said.

He added: “I would largely break this into three sets of values that Asians have in common: Technocratic governance – with a license to pursue independent, apolitical, nonelectoral way largely; Mixed Capitalism – government directing and steering investments; and Social Conservatism – incremental approach to a liberal social order. Looking ahead, in our new fiscal policies for the future, enabling the SMEs is paramount as it will help the overall health of the countries.

Meanwhile, Damian Bradfield, Chief Creative Officer and Co-Founder of WeTransfer and WePresent, and Divyank Turakhia, founder of agreed that investors must be ready with the requisite capital to finance startups and new industry 4.0 technologies – pointing specifically to telemedicine – as the pace of automation across all sectors will only accelerate over the next decade, as it has in the last 12 months since the pandemic struck. Now is the time, they said, that entrepreneurs to change the world.

Divyank Turakhia said: “This radical change, and our use of these applications that we have tested on a large scale, encourages us to adopt many of them in our daily lives in the future, as the adoption of fifth generation communication technologies and satellite Internet communication achieves greater access to the requirements of the business sector.

“This requires greater attention from governments, because the sooner they adopt these technologies, the better equipped they are to give their economies and business sectors an advanced competitive edge over others,” he added.

For his part, Damian Bradfield said: “Cryptocurrencies have become noticeably more prevalent, and the prices of many of them have doubled in a very short period of time, some reaching $50,000 per unit of currency.

“Many have also turned towards stock trading and testing the financial markets for the first time. This has been one of the unexpected positive aspects of the COVID-19 challenge, despite its many negative repercussions on the lives of many people and on specific economic sectors. However, we will see in the coming stage more positive transformations.”

From entrepreneurship, the focus shifted to energy. Dr.-Ing. Christian Bruch, President and CEO of Siemens Energy, then joined CNN’s John Defterios for a discussion on ‘Powering the Decade with Renewables’. Bruch highlighted that though renewables proved resilient during the pandemic the real test for the energy sector is in planning for the next crisis, saying global crisis is a wake-up call to the energy sector to get its act together.

Citing an Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) report, which states that US$12.5 trillion is needed from 2021 to 2045 to get the global energy transition underway and tackle the last billion people without regular energy access, Dr Bruch said the world’s leading industry players are clearly divided on their priorities.

“You see a pretty divided world. On the one side there is sufficient capital in the world and it is a question on how to deploy it. There is a lot of uncertainty – this balance of investing somewhere, giving people access to electricity and energy – how is this working out? One thing is clear, the old mechanisms are not going to work,” he explained.

Dr Janine Benyus, Co-Founder of Biomimicry Institute, said recreating the biochemistry of nature in our daily work environments is key to tackling mental health crisis. “Due to COVID, we have realized that planetary health is public health. How are we making our world? The goal is to create products, processes, and policies that solve our greatest design challenges sustainably with all life on earth. We need to mimic nature’s chemistry textbook. Life is the original circular economy. We can create conditions conducive to life, just like nature does,” she said.

In the penultimate session of the event, Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology and Chair of the UAE Space Agency, said the development of a private space sector would be crucial for the UAE in the future. “Our first advent into planetary exploration is to transfer and expedite the transfer of knowledge into the space sector of the UAE,” she explained.

She added: “What we’re currently designing and developing is how do you transfer that onto a private sector for Earth observation” as well as providing a “value proposition for the private sector to exist and aid [space] exploration.”

The final session of the event, ‘The Race to Space and Humanity’s Future’, saw Astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson and The Rt. Honorable Lord Martin Rees, Astrophysicist, Cosmologist, and 60th President of the Royal Society, explore the possibilities and perils of future space exploration. The two world-leading scientists also explained how the foundations of tomorrow’s economy will pivot on innovations in the STEM fields, and how decision-makers must excite people to enter the STEM fields, through space exploration and development programs.

Lord Rees said: “The only reason for humans to go to space would be for adventure. To live on Mars is not going to be easy. Mars has a hostile environment. So, the idea of Elon Musk to have a million people settle on Mars is a dangerous delusion. Living on Mars is no better than living on the South Pole or the tip of Mount Everest.”

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson said: “To ship a billion people to another planet to help them survive a catastrophe on earth seems unrealistic. If you want to call Mars home, you need to terraform Mars, turn it into Earth. It is so much easier to make Earth return to Earth again rather than terraforming Mars.

“There is no force on Earth as potent as the exploration of space that impacts our thoughts and ambitions. Thinking about the future is half of what drives the future. Space will always remain as an inspiration for young people and it is an area we need to support,” he added. “The next generation has a broader view of the world. They think globally and have embraced technology like never before. I cannot wait for them to take over the Earth and fix the problems of this world. The edge of the Earth is space and with resources available and the spirit adventure, I have high hopes of all that the next generation will bring us.”

Lord Martin Rees also said, “Space exploration costs have come down and many nations can now join in. The big question here is what do we want to find here? Do we want to find out if there is life out there? The Earth has an amazing biosphere – to find life on Mars or anywhere else will be crucially important as it then tells us that life isn’t a rare fluke and it might exist in a billion places in the galaxies.”

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, added: “Space is for everyone and the Solar System is the world’s backyard. So, it’s great to see that collaborations are becoming important in space exploration and countries are coming together to share knowledge and resources.”