Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

7 September 2022

Representatives from Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland also accepted invitations to the meeting. The Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, the Director of the European Centre for Disease Control, the Director of the European Medicines Agency, and the WHO Regional Director for Europe also attended the meeting. The program was divided into several thematic blocks, which focused on the priorities of the Czech Presidency in the field of healthcare. The main topics were European assistance to the Ukrainian health system, vaccination and vaccine hesitancy, the fight against cancer and the conclusions of the Oncology Conference hosted in July by the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

During the first part of the meeting, the ministers focused on public health in the context of the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Minister of Health, Viktor Liashko, was also invited to the meeting. Ministers stressed the need for EU cooperation and coordinated assistance for Ukrainian citizens remaining in Ukraine as well as for war refugees in the European Union. The emphasis was placed not only on immediate coordinated assistance directed towards Ukraine, but the restoration of the Ukrainian health system has also been discussed, for the very first time. Apart from ensuring a functioning health system able to provide a sufficient quality of healthcare for Ukrainian patients on their return, other aspects also need to be taken into account, in particular in the field of mutual recognition of education and qualifications in the field of healthcare.

“For me, as a Minister of Health, but also as a doctor, parent and grandparent, the most important thing was to ensure that all those people coming to our country receive healthcare comparable to that provided to European citizens, without compromising the availability and quality of care for European citizens themselves,” said Vlastimil Válek.

During the second block devoted to vaccination as the most effective tool for prevention of disease, ministers agreed on the importance of restoring public confidence in vaccination. The conclusions of this discussion aim to send a clear political signal in the fight against the trend towards a declining vaccination coverage and to prevent the deepening polarisation of opinion groups. During the debate, ministers stressed the need to find solutions on a European level, as only a coordinated approach can achieve the best possible results. The Czech Presidency will also address the subject of vaccination during the conference in November and will start to discuss the Council conclusions on vaccination at the end of September, later expected to be adopted at the EPSCO Council in December.

“The experience with COVID-19 has unfortunately deepened the distrust of vaccination among some citizens. Many people have forgotten that vaccination is one of the greatest achievements of modern medicine. At many times over the course of our history, just like now, this was the only way to partially or completely avert a total catastrophe,” said Minister of Health Válek.

During the lunch discussion, representatives of the member states discussed oncology, the availability of cancer care, early screening, and the centralisation of the complex networks of specialised centres across Europe. The Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan was also an important topic of discussion. Health ministers endorsed the Call to Action, the outcome of the July Oncology Conference, which calls for faster and more effective implementation of the plan. The Czech Presidency will build on its previous activities in the field of oncology by launching a discussion on the Council Recommendation on Cancer Screening, which is one of its priority proposals. The adoption of the Recommendation will take place at the December EPSCO Council.

“Oncology is one of the most important priorities of the Czech Republic. I am certain that as a nation, we have a lot to offer Europe in this respect. I am very pleased that we are able to move this key agenda forward during our Presidency. The Ministers were invited to implement the existing plan in a concrete way,” specified the Minister of Health.

In the afternoon, under the auspices of the European Commission and the Czech Presidency, a meeting of the HERA Committee was held at ministerial level with the presence of representatives of Bavarian Nordic, BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna. The topic of the meeting with the first mentioned company was the issue of vaccination against monkeypox. Discussions with BioNTech, Pfizer and Moderna focused on the issue of the surplus of COVID-19 vaccines and the flexibility of future and current contracts with manufacturers.

The negotiations were preceded by several months of intensive communication with the vaccine manufacturers to ensure the most effective resolution of the issue. Together with the European Commission, the Czech Presidency has succeeded in moving this discussion forward significantly. Agreement was reached on substantial streamlining and greater flexibility in the supply of vaccines to EU Member States. One of the conclusions of the negotiations is that after 19 September, only the newest types of vaccines will be delivered. Shipments planned for the end of this year will thus be postponed to 2023 and shipments for 2023 will be postponed to the following year, depending on Member States’ needs. This will be based on current demand, and therefore the Member States do not have to dispose of expired vaccines again. The exact conditions and technical details will be specified in the coming period.

More details and remarks by EU Health Commissioner Kyriakides:

“Our aim was to coordinate this meeting within the framework of our Presidency and to defend the interests of the EU Member States in relation to COVID-19 vaccines. The discussion was very challenging but also very constructive on the part of the participants, nonetheless the compromise was reached. We are glad that we found a general consensus on many of the topics we discussed, and I am certain that we are steering the future of these contracts in the best possible direction for the whole EU,” said Vlastimil Válek, Minister of Health, in conclusion.

Source – EU Council Presidency

 


Speech by Commissioner Kyriakides at the Informal Health Council – The Public Health Impacts of the War in Ukraine

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“Check against delivery”

Ministers,

In July I travelled to Ukraine, which was an extremely moving experience. I witnessed the resilience of Ukrainian people during these terrible times.

We, collectively, must do everything to help Ukraine and Ukrainian patients inside and outside the country’s borders. For as long as this is needed.

Concrete support and continued solidarity is needed, especially as winter is coming, and I welcome this opportunity to share some of the practical steps we have taken.

Since early March, more than 1,400 requests for medical evacuations (MEDEVAC) have been received, with more than 1,180 transfers successfully completed.

With these medical evacuations, we are delivering crucial, life-saving support to patients. We are continuously working to improve the system, to make it more effective and efficient as we know the numbers will increase.

Close coordination on the EU level is key. We therefore are updating the procedures, adding a new mechanism to ensure coordinated EU action also for the repatriation of patients.

The aim is to upscale the current mechanism, including the collaboration with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the set-up of medical hubs in Poland, Romania , and Slovakia, and repatriation activities.

Furthermore, we have to ensure that repatriation under MEDEVAC has the financial support it needs.

To do so, we are looking at the best EU mechanism that could assist the EU/EEA authorities and Ukraine.

Furthermore, in July, together with the Minister Liashko during my visit to Ukraine, I signed an agreement associating Ukraine to the EU4Health programme.

This will give Ukraine access to EU funding, and enable the Ukrainian health system to respond to immediate needs and to long-term recovery. But, as you know, even before this announcement, we had provided concrete support to provide mental health and trauma aid to Ukrainians.

We launched a EUR 2 million call for NGOs to promote mental health among displaced Ukrainians.

With funding from the EU4Health programme, we have launched a EUR 8.4 million project focusing on mental health with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

We are  dedicating up to EUR 7 million to support actions for displaced people.

These will focus on cancer training, prevention of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, as well as health determinants.

We have delivered 5 million iodide tablets in case needed for a nuclear emergency.

We have invited Ukraine to participate in the new Joint Action on antimicrobial resistance.

In addition, since March we have created the dedicated ‘Supporting Ukraine, EU neighbouring Member States and Moldova’ network on the EU Health Policy Platform .

This platform makes it easier for civil society, patient organisations and health stakeholders to collaborate, share ideas, and complement initiatives taken at Member-State level.

Finally, facing the autumn and winter, we need to prepare for an increased number of patients with respiratory diseases or severe frostbites in need of possible amputations.

Ministers,

Collaboration, coordination and solidarity are essential pillars of our response to the war in Ukraine. Together with you and international partners, we are translating these ideals into concrete and continued, sustained support for Ukraine .

 


Speech by Commissioner Kyriakides at Informal Health Council – Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan

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Prague, 7 September 2022“Check against delivery”

Ministers,

We have been working together for decades to tackle cancer and our efforts have saved and prolonged lives across the Union.

But we need to do more.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is our renewed, collective commitment to cancer prevention, treatment and care.

It is the first time we have such an ambitious, comprehensive and well-funded plan at EU level that allows us to work so closely and in such a coordinated manner across the EU to bring about change for cancer patients, families, society.

This is an opportunity that we must seize to try and reduce the worrying cancer trend in the EU.

It is so very important that cancer is a priority for the Czech Presidency.

I also very much welcome the call to action from the Brno oncology conference, as it provides added support and focus on key actions included in the Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and the Horizon Europe Cancer Mission.

Since the adoption of the Cancer Plan, we have made considerable progress and are delivering what we promised.

Let me give you some key examples from the long list of actions we already launched:

  • When it comes to research and innovation, we now have the first EU Knowledge Centre on Cancer up and running to facilitate the coordination of scientific and technical cancer-related initiatives at EU level.
  • To improve standards of care in the EU, the work has started to establish an EU Network linking National Comprehensive Cancer Centres by 2025. In addition, since this summer, our inter-speciality cancer training programme is up and running.
  • In the area of quality of life, we have launched an EU-wide process to address fairness in access to financial services for people with a history of cancer, this in view of establishing the first ever EU Code of Conduct.
  •  Targeting specifically EUs many young cancer patients, the kick-off of meeting of the EU Network for Youth Cancer Survivors will take place later this month.
  • When it comes to inequalities, we have for the first time an EU inequalities registry to monitor trends and provide guidance for the prioritisation of investments at EU and national level.

Let me finish with a reference to one of our major initiatives this year:  our proposal for a new Council Recommendation on cancer screening that we plan to present on 21 September. I am very pleased to see the special attention the Presidency is placing on improving early detection through cancer screening.

If we want to increase the chances of survival, we need to improve early detection through screening. This proposal will ensure that we have in place evidence-based, patient-centric methodologies to tackle new cancer sites.

I very much welcome the support of the Czech Presidency and its ambition for adoption of the Recommendation in the Council by December.

Ministers,

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan represents an unprecedented political commitment. This as many of you , know is a personal commitment for President Von der Leyen and for myself. As someone  who has been through three cancer experiences , I know how many families, patients are looking at what we can all do together with hope and expectations.

But, in order for the Plan to be successful, efficient and sustainable, cancer need to stay at the top of the policy agenda at EU level.

We cannot allow this huge momentum to be wasted or lost in the face of unexpected crises and shocks, shifting health priorities or changes to political structures in the years to come.

Cancer is already a major health threat. Unless we act now, cancer will become the leading cause of death in the EU by 2035.

I count on your commitment and cooperation in the implementation phase of the Cancer Plan.

Together, we can change the future of cancer!

 


Press Statement by Commissioner Kyriakides following the Informal Health Council

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Prague, 7 September 2022

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank Minister Válek for hosting this informal Health Council today and for allowing us to have an exchange on some of our most important priorities in the area of health.

Today’s discussions took place in light of the approval of the first adapted COVID-19 vaccines in the EU and the set of concrete measures we proposed last week to prepare for another challenging autumn and winter.

One of the main calls we made and the message I reiterated to Ministers today, is the urgent need to have robust vaccination strategies in place in all Member States in preparation for the months ahead, and to begin vaccination as soon as possible.

This includes communicating in clear terms to citizens which vaccine they are eligible for, including the new and adapted vaccines.

We need coherent and clear messages in order to increase trust in vaccination, reduce vaccine hesitancy and fight disinformation.

The pandemic is not over, and we need to communicate this clearly to citizens.

Vaccination and boosting remain our strongest assets against the virus.

Our health Agencies yesterday issued considerations for the use of the newly authorised adapted COVID-19 booster vaccines to support vaccination campaigns.

They recommend prioritising boosting with adapted vaccines for specific risk groups, such as those above 60 and persons with underlying health conditions.

When it comes to actions beyond vaccination, it is also essential that resilient surveillance systems are set up to monitor the development of the virus, that strategies for the reintroduction of effective public health measures are in place if needed and that the capacity of health care systems is strengthened.

We have all made huge sacrifices over the past years, and we must ensure that they have not been in vain.

Today we held for the first time a HERA Board meeting at ministerial level, with an open and frank discussion on our EU Vaccines Strategy together with BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna, to align demand and supply of vaccines.

With the first variant booster authorised, we have ensured that the vaccines delivered from September onwards will be mRNA adapted vaccines, covering both the original and Omicron strains.

As of the beginning of this week, deliveries of BA1 adapted vaccines have already started in the Member States.

Another area where vaccination is proving essential is to address the current monkeypox outbreak.

The number of monkeypox cases in the EU decreasing for the past 6 weeks. But the threat has not yet passed.

Today we have announced the purchase of another over 170 000 doses of Monkeypox vaccines for Member States. With this we have now supported Member States with a total of over 334 000 doses financed by the EU budget.

These additional vaccines will be available for delivery before the end of the year.

We also stand ready to provide further support on vaccines via a joint procurement and we are advancing well on our procurement of the antiviral Tecovirimat. I am hoping that we will soon have good news to share on this.

This decreasing trend of monkeypox cases could hopefully indicate that risk communication and community engagement have resulted in the behavioural change needed to keep the outbreak under control.

We also discussed our work on cancer, and I took the opportunity to reiterate to Ministers that at the end of September, we will present another major proposal under Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan: new EU recommendations on cancer screening.

We know that early detection saves lives. The current recommendations have been in place since 2003, and it is high time that we ensure that they are aligned with the most recent medical developments and scientific findings. We need to do more cancer screening, and we need to do screening for more types of cancer.

This is crucial to improve cancer prevention .  Preventing has  always been more effective than curing.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan is a unique opportunity to change the realities of cancer. It is the first time that we have a plan that is so well-funded, and tackles all aspects of cancer. I would like to thank the Czech Presidency for highlighting the Plan as a priority, and the Commission will move forward with delivering it together with Member States, as it will change the lives of millions of EU citizens.

Finally, we also discussed the need to continue ensuring  sustained support for Ukraine in the area of health, for as long as it is needed.

We are continuously working to improve the medical transfer system that we have set up to make it more efficient for new patients and we are also looking at how we can support for example to address antimicrobial resistance in Ukrainian hospitals.

Again, I would like to thank Minister Minister Válek and the Czech Presidency for organising this meeting today.

I wish you a successful Presidency during what will be another challenging autumn and winter.

 

 

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