President von der Leyen at the EU Health Summit

© European Union, 2021© European Union, 2021

“Check against delivery”

Thank you to the European Business Summit for organising this important gathering.

Distinguished guests,

I am a medical doctor by training, and I have always been proud of Europe’s health systems. They are among the best in the world.

Yet the challenge of this pandemic is unprecedented in modern times. We now know that defeating this virus is possible. But no country and no government can defeat the virus alone.

This is true, first of all, at the global level. Secondly, inside Europe. And thirdly, between the public and the private sectors.

Let me focus first on our response to the pandemic. The EU has taken the lead to convene a global response to COVID-19 and not only a national one. For this purpose we not only work with WHO and the G20, but also with civil society and foundations. Our common goal is to finance the development of vaccines, tests and treatments for the whole world. We so far raised €16 billion.

We also joined and contributed to the COVAX Facility to ensure that newly developed vaccines are also available for low and middle-income countries. Team Europe alone – has provided €800 million. This is the largest donation to COVAX worldwide. Because we’re convinced that we will only defeat the virus, if we defeat it all around the world.

Secondly, we have established an unprecedented cooperation inside Europe on health issues. In November we have taken the first steps to establish a European Health Union. We will now have an EU-wide preparedness and response plan. This will help us harmonise national plans, including audits and stress tests by the European Commission.

We want to make it possible to declare – if necessary – a state of EU health emergency. This would trigger greater coordination among Member States, joint procurement of medical equipment, and the deployment of EU Outbreak Assistance Teams.

To better support Member States, we also propose to give more responsibilities, powers and resources to existing European agencies – the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

To improve our forecast we will create a new European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority, HERA for short. HERA will focus on next crises, and if possible, avert them. HERA will work with all the relevant players – from conception to deployment of therapies, vaccines and technologies.

This kind of cooperation is essential to a rapid response in the event of a health emergency. Governments alone cannot end this pandemic. That’s why the Commission presented last week its Pharmaceutical Strategy. It is about creating win-win situations with the private sector. But we also want to put patients at the centre of medicines development and supply.

And thus we will be working with innovative small companies as well as large multinationals in Europe. Europe can take the lead in supplying ground-breaking medicines that are also affordable and widely available. These are three cornerstones of our new health policy.

And we will continue to build the Health Union in the coming months – with our Beating Cancer Plan and the European health data space. Together with global partners. Together with all Europeans. And together with the private sector. Only together we will be able to address the biggest challenges for global health.

This leads me to the last point: As one expert at Johns Hopkins put it: “Vaccines don’t save lives, vaccinations do.” The development of vaccines has been a remarkable team effort. We will need an even greater effort to deliver them to every village of this world. And we have to prove the safety and the efficacy of those vaccines. Especially in the face of growing vaccine scepticism and disinformation campaigns.

The message is clear: Vaccination is about self-protection and solidarity.

Dear guests of the European Health Summit: We have to build strong and trustworthy narratives. This is possible, because together, we have made unprecedented progress in the area of vaccines And this is the result of joint cooperation.

I count on your further support!

Thank you!