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Barroso to Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Arabia’s Response to the Pandemic a Lesson for Health Systems

Barroso to Asharq Al-Awsat: Saudi Arabia’s Response to the Pandemic a Lesson for Health Systems

Thursday, 28 April, 2022 - 10:15
Jose Barroso, the chairman of the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) (Photo: Asharq Al-Awsat)

Jose Barroso, the chairman of the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI), described Saudi Arabia’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic as “wonderful”, pointing that the Kingdom’s investment in health care systems has prepared it to deal better with the pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Barroso, who is also the former prime minister of Portugal, warned that the pandemic was not over, pointing to the continuous emergence of new variants. In this regard, he underlined the need to maintain work to develop a proactive response plan.

Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s handling of the pandemic, Barroso praised the Kingdom’s response saying it has managed to distribute more than 63 million vaccines in a short period of time. He said that societal awareness is very high in general, urging Saudi Arabia to remain vigilant because the epidemic is not over yet.

According to the chairman of GAVI, Saudi Arabia had invested heavily in strengthening its health care system, just before the outbreak of the virus which made the Kingdom fully prepared to deal with the pandemic in the best way.

Barroso revealed that the COVAX initiative was able to build the world’s most diverse stock of Covid-19 vaccines. He said that more than 1.4 billion doses were shipped to 145 countries through the initiative and more than 600 million US dollars were earmarked to support governments in the local distribution of vaccines.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that 43% of people in 92 low-income countries have received two doses of the vaccine to date, describing that as a major advance towards achieving global equity in terms of distribution and bridging the gap between the vaccinated individuals in high-income countries, and those in low-income countries.

In response to a question about the end of the pandemic, Barroso said that many economies were starting to open up to the world, and the global justice gap for vaccines was shrinking, but people must not forget that the world was witnessing the worst pandemic in humanity in a hundred years.

He said people must remain vigilant and that huge differences in vaccine rates can still be seen between high-income countries and those with limited income, noting that more than 6 million deaths have been recorded around the world, and the global economy has shrunk by $12.5 trillion.

He explained the necessity to keep vaccinating individuals around the world because the virus will continue to mutate and threaten societies and individuals alike. Closing the global justice gap is a priority so we can reduce the possibility of the emergence of new mutations, stressed Barroso.

The head of the Global Alliance for Vaccines also warned against misinformation that is spread through social media platforms.

He stressed that the partners of COVAX, including governments and UNICEF, were constantly working with local and religious leaders to mobilize the community, increase trust, stop the misinformation, and help authorities respond to questions and concerns about vaccines.

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