Check Against Delivery

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, let me thank Minister Poklukar for hosting this Informal Health Council today, and for the work carried out throughout the first half of the Slovenian Presidency.

The pandemic has shown us all how important EU cooperation and solidarity are in responding to cross-border health threats.

That is why we have proposed building a strong European Health Union, with the reform of the mandates of the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and, and the setting up of the new European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority, HERA.

HERA’s role is to improve the EU’s development, manufacturing, procurement and distribution of key medical countermeasures.

HERA will also be crucial in ensuring accessibility and availability of medicines.

As I said to Ministers today, HERA is a joint undertaking, with Member States, EU Agencies, the European Parliament and other concerned stakeholders, including industry and civil society.

HERA’s strength and success will come from our joint preparedness and joint response, and our capacity to bringing joint solutions.

HERA is now operational and should be fully up and running early next year. I want to take this opportunity to thank the Presidency and the Member States again for the continued support for our work to put in place the European Health Union.

 

When it comes to vaccination, our key tool to fight COVID-19, we have seen how the unprecedented cooperation and solidarity has paid off, with more than 75% of adults in the EU now vaccinated as a result of the EU Vaccine Strategy.

But we need even higher rates. And we need them everywhere. This was one of my main messages today, continue to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate!

The difficulties that some of our Member States are currently facing with COVID-19 cases at record highs and extreme pressure on hospitals is a start reminder of this.

This is a reminder that we risk a pandemic of the unvaccinated unless we take action now. Action to vaccinate hard-to-reach population groups, build a dialogue with those hesitant and ensure the vulnerable are all covered.

This must happen now, especially as societies are reopening and the oncoming winter bringing the additional threat of influenza.

The EU Vaccines Strategy is a truly remarkable achievement. It has been a success for the EU, we now also need to make sure it delivers and is a success also for those in need globally.

Clear commitments have been made, over 500 million doses to be donated on behalf of Team Europe by the middle of 2022, with 250 million by the end of this year.

These commitments must be met.

We will continue to facilitate Member States’ vaccine sharing efforts and help them meet their commitments. No dose should be wasted.

 

We also discussed the question of medicines shortages and access to COVID-19 treatments.

I would here like to make clear that vaccination offers the best protection against infection, severe disease, loss of life and long term consequences of COVID-19. It is the most effective way to end the pandemic and get back to a normal life.

Therapeutics can provide life-saving treatment for those who fall sick, but they cannot replace vaccines.

We are steadily advancing in our work under the EU Therapeutics Strategy with the goal to ensure access to COVID-19 medicines as soon as possible.

By now the European Medicines Agency has four new antiviral monoclonal antibodies under rolling review and for two of them, applications for marketing authorisation are being assessed to treat adults with COVID. Three other products already on the market are also being assessed for treatment also of COVID-19 patients.

The EU Vaccines Strategy is delivering, our Health Union is in motion, and our Therapeutics Strategy is expected to pay dividends soon.

When we work together we can achieve important results, and this is how I see the way forward on our work on health.

The health of one Member States is contingent on the health of the others. This is the public health reality we are operating in.

Again, I would like to sincerely thank Minister Poklukar and the Slovenian Presidency team for all their work and good cooperation in the pandemic response efforts.

Thank you.