The talk about getting people vaccinated and ultimately building resilient health systems, involves creating economic resiliency, as the economic recovery and public health go hand-in-hand, Executive Director of the US-Egypt Business Council, Steve Lutes, has told Daily News Egypt.
“The US-Egypt Business Council and our friends at AmCham Egypt know that a healthy Egyptian population is vital to achieving a sustainable and healthy economy in Egypt,” he said.
“Therefore, the Chamber, our members, the private sector employers in Egypt, and the Egyptian Government must continue to work together to figure this out, communicate, share information, and partner to get the job done,” he continued.
His remarks to Daily News Egypt came on the sidelines of his speech on the Role of Business in Ending the Pandemic webinar that Center for International Private Enterprise hosted.
The webinar focused on the critical role of businesses, employers in ending a pandemic and getting firmly on that path to recovery by supporting the vaccine rollout, countering vaccine hesitancy in the workplace, and encouraging vaccine acceptance more broadly.
They also discussed how business associations and chambers of commerce, and industry required the solution and provided the leadership needed to help their members get through the crisis, having several top experts from leading institutions in this field that shared their insights.
During his speech, Lutes mentioned that many people may recall those early months of the pandemic as governments began shut downs and had to work through and make decisions about keeping essential businesses open. At the US Chamber, it engaged with many governments across the Middle East region, including Egypt, to ensure businesses providing essential services and goods remained open while also taking steps to support and protect their employees.
“And as we began to reopen and focus on driving economic growth, again, there was collaboration between government and business in Egypt and throughout the Middle East on initiatives to get employees back to work and to stimulate their economies,” he said.
Lutes continued that now, as vaccines offer us the greatest hope we have to end this pandemic, it is imperative that business and government continue to come together with a decisive message: the approved vaccines are safe, they becoming more and more available in the region, and the vaccines help protect you, your family, and your colleagues at work—so it is essential that everyone makes getting vaccinated a priority.
For his part, Chairperson of AmCham MENA, Mohammed Bataineh, said that the only way to get out of the contagious loop and boost our economic recovery, getting people back to work and schools, and get their business running again, is to vaccinate.
He mentioned that according to recent studies published, unfortunately, Jordan and Kuwait have the highest rates of vaccine hesitancy among the Arab countries, and thus the lowest vaccine acceptance globally.
Bataineh pointed out that in 2019, the WHO listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health. He stressed that this should be an alarming indicator for the private and public sector representatives, donor agencies, and policymakers to join their efforts in raising the community’s awareness.
He mentioned that Jordan had put itself or its name on the list of the first companies to receive vaccines but despite available quantities and different types of vaccines, explaining that Jordan ranks 70th globally for its COVID-19 vaccination rates as over 52% of the Jordanian population is vaccinated according to Covidvax, a live COVID-19 vaccination tracker.
“This low vaccine acceptance rate is a result of the spread of misinformation, bad words of mouth, conspiracy beliefs and fear of potential side effects, and the speed at which it was developed. This is directly correlated with vaccine hesitancy among the Jordanian community,” Bataineh explained.
He assured that breaking the COVID contagious cycle is extremely important to revive Jordan’s economy. This could only be done through collective effort, and the responsibility between the public and private sector, to have a national strategic plan to reduce vaccine hesitancy.
Bataineh said that the private sector in the MENA region should rise to the challenge and support an increasing trust and transparency between the civil society and public sectors, through disseminating timely, accurate information, positive propaganda about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and the technology that was utilised in their production.
“As the current Chairperson of the Amcham MENA, I call upon all AmChams in the MENA region to start working with their members on raising awareness, capitalising on the big difference and active role they can take to support the government’s in increasing vaccination rates,” he said.
He continued that AmChams can start working with the number of companies by hosting experts to awareness sessions to discuss the vaccines potential side effects, positive outcomes and answer people’s concerns. In addition they can also start considering sharing accurate information on their social media platforms, since today people rely heavily on social media as their main source of information about COVID-19.