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Minister for Health meets EU partners in Brussels to discuss COVID-19 vaccines procurement and implementation of the Medical Devices Regulation

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly T.D. is today representing Ireland at a meeting of EU Health Ministers in Brussels. This formal meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council is held under the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union (July to December 2022). Ministers will exchange views on COVID-19 vaccines procurement and receive timely updates from the European Commission on implementation of the Medical Device Regulation (MDR) as well as the revision of pharmaceutical legislation. 


This morning’s session opened with an exchange of views on COVID-19 procurement; Executive Director of the European Medicines Agency Emer Cooke and Director of European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control Dr Andrea Ammon were also in attendance. 


Minister Donnelly said: “Participation in the EU COVID-19 vaccine strategy has allowed us to conduct the largest immunisation programme in our country’s history, saving countless lives and enabling the resumption of normal social and economic life.” 


Looking forward to continued fruitful collaboration on procurement, Minister Donnelly added, “we welcome that our evolving European Health Union seeks to address a wide range of potential scenarios in terms of preparedness for and response to both known and as yet unknown threats. Ireland is supportive of continued Commission efforts to adapt the existing covid vaccine procurement agreements and future strategy, to reflect the changing epidemiological situation and building upon the lessons learned during the pandemic.” 


Next Ministers adopted a Council Recommendation on strengthening prevention through early detection: A new EU approach on cancer screening, and approved Council Conclusions on vaccination as one of the most effective tools for preventing disease and improving public health. Ministers also took note of progress reports on proposed regulations on the European Health Data Space and on standards of quality and safety for substances of human origin. This was followed by a working lunch on mental health. 


In the afternoon, EU Commissioner for Health & Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides provided an update on implementation of the Medical Devices Regulation (MDR) and outlined a keenly anticipated legislative amendment to prevent significant shortages of medical devices. Leading Member States in welcoming the Commission’s proposed response, Minister Donnelly stressed that “this measure needs to be adopted and take effect without delay to ensure that the devices our citizens and health systems rely on remain available”. Underscoring the need to address also the root causes of persistent, fundamental challenges, Minister Donnelly said, “The EU needs a reliable and sustainable regulatory framework in place to ensure a high level of safety and health, including by facilitating innovation.” 


The Commission is also updating Ministers on the revision of the EU pharmaceutical legislation. Other AOB items address the Negotiations for an international Pandemic Agreement and amendments to the International Health Regulations (2005); the EU Global Health strategy; State of Health Preparedness Report; the Clinical Trials Portal CTIS; Conferences under the Czech Presidency; and the Work programme of the incoming Swedish Presidency.