May 21, 2019
Secretary Azar Attends Second Day of the 72nd World Health Assembly, Signs Agreement with Indonesia
Tuesday, May 21, 2019, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar continued participation in the 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) as head of the U.S. delegation. On Tuesday, he attended a briefing on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters, participated in multiple bilateral meetings with foreign counterparts, and co-hosted a side event on vaccine hesitancy.
In the morning, Secretary Azar joined other health ministers and WHO leadership for a meeting on the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, which included a briefing from WHO, remarks from Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and then a discussion among the leaders present. As Secretary Azar noted in his plenary statement on Monday, the crisis has now claimed more than 1,200 Congolese lives and is not considered to be under control. Secretary Azar called for efforts to reach a common understanding around the potential need for the purchase of more investigational vaccines that are being administered in the DRC, an issue he also raised in his plenary statement. He also praised the work of Director-General Tedros and his team, and lauded the heroism of WHO workers and all personnel on the ground responding to the outbreak.
Later in the morning, Secretary Azar met with Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng. Their discussion focused on the Ebola outbreak in the neighboring DRC, and Secretary Azar emphasized that the United States is eager to provide technical assistance to the Ugandan government regarding epidemiological work as necessary. They also discussed the success of PEPFAR in helping Uganda progress toward control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the need for more action on fighting tuberculosis.
Next, Secretary Azar met with Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health. Their dialogue covered efforts in the United States to pay for value in healthcare financing, as well as the importance of vaccines for both the seasonal flu and other diseases.
Secretary Azar met with Indonesia’s Minister of Health, Nila Moeloek, whom he thanked for Indonesia’s strong leadership on the Global Health Security Agenda, a global health priority of the United States. They also signed a memorandum of understanding between HHS and the Indonesian health ministry regarding a range of topics, including NIH’s research work and CDC’s work around epidemiological control and emergency management.
Following these bilateral meetings, the U.S. delegation hosted a side event in collaboration with the European Union and Brazil on the challenge of vaccine hesitancy and declining immunization rates around the world. Secretary Azar described the U.S. government’s work within its own borders and around the world to promote vaccines and expand access to them, and called on those present to develop strategies within their own nations to raise vaccination rates.
In the afternoon, Secretary Azar met with Dr. Luiz Henrique Mandetta, Brazil’s Minister of Health. Their conversation focused on the public health crisis in South America caused by the illegitimate Maduro regime’s destruction of Venezuela’s healthcare system, including the importance of vaccines to addressing the spread of infectious diseases resulting from the crisis.
Secretary Azar met with Hungary’s State Secretary for Health, Idliko Horvath, with whom he discussed the importance of vaccinations and explained the U.S. government’s view that the WHO’s smallpox research agenda, which recently helped produce the first-ever smallpox therapeutic, must continue to support health security and preparedness.
Then, Secretary Azar met with Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare, Chen Shih-chung, and he expressed regret that, once again, Taiwan was not invited to observe at WHA, a sentiment the Secretary had expressed the day before in his plenary statement. Together, they discussed global health issues and the prospects for patient-centered access to seamless electronic health records.
The Secretary also met with the Global Health Security Agenda Private Sector Roundtable, where he thanked the private-sector leaders for their support of health security and emphasized the United States’ support for greater openness at the WHO to private sector involvement.
On Wednesday, Secretary Azar will attend a breakfast regarding rare, neglected, and emerging health threats hosted by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, known as CEPI, and then depart for Washington. This will serve as the final readout of his travel to Geneva.