Health Minister meets EU partners in Prague to discuss Ukraine, vaccination and cancer

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly attended a meeting of EU Health Ministers in Prague. This Informal meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health, and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council is the first meeting of EU Health Ministers under the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union (July to December 2022). The agenda focused on the Ukraine crisis, vaccination, and cancer.

Health Ministers discussed the public health impacts of the war in Ukraine and were addressed by the Ukrainian Minister of Health Viktor Liashko.

Minister Donnelly said, “Ireland is resolute in our solidarity and support for Ukraine and is honouring our commitment to helping Ukrainians who have been displaced by this horrendous war.”

Minister Donnelly recalled how Ireland is providing free access to healthcare services for the almost 50,000 people who have arrived from Ukraine and been granted temporary protection in our country.

In addition, we have organised 20 medical evacuations of Ukrainians in need of emergency care and provided €4.3 million in medical humanitarian donations for the Ukrainian health system as part of the EU health response.

On vaccination, Minister Donnelly went on to say, “We must all work together to tackle the spread of dangerous misinformation concerning vaccines. It is also important that we guard against complacency taking hold for well-established vaccination programs to mitigate the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, re-emerging.”

Addressing EU partners at a working lunch on Oncology and Implementation of Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan, Minister Donnelly referenced Ireland’s National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026, stating that:

“Cancer rates in Ireland have fallen or stabilised in recent years due to prevention and early detection initiatives. Survival rates for Irish cancer patients continue to improve, with five-year net survival for all cancers averaging 65% for patients diagnosed during 2014-2018, compared with only 42% for those diagnosed during 1994-1998. Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan will support and complement work underway at the national level and add value in areas that will benefit from cross-border cooperation and expertise.”

Following the Informal EPSCO Council meeting, Health Ministers participated in an extraordinary meeting of the HERA (Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority) Board at ministerial level. Discussion focused on the future of vaccine contracts and joint procurement.

The European Commission, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) were also in attendance, along with industry representatives for dedicated sessions.

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