Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel
Monday, October 25, 2021
Καλημέρα σας. Minister Plevris, colleagues, friends, I’m truly happy to be back for my fifth HealthWorld Conference. Under the fantastic leadership of the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce, this conference has become a truly important venue for us to engage with each other on critical public health challenges. I really want to thank you Nikos and Elias, as always, for being such great partners and for convening such an impressive group of panelists and speakers.
So much has happened since we last met. When I was in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago for the latest U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue, we had an all-star team present from the Greek government. And I was struck there by the continued dramatic growth in the breadth and depth of our trade and investment relationship, even through the past year and a half of the pandemic.
Healthcare cooperation is a critical topic under the Trade and Investment pillar of the Strategic Dialogue, and I’m very proud that through that mechanism we have been able to foster increased dialogue between industry and our respective governments. Thanks to that dialogue, we continue to make progress on areas like healthcare financing reforms, incentivizing research and clinical trials, and digitization of healthcare services.
Most critically, since the last HealthWorld conference, we now have a stable supply of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines, developed by American companies including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna. These are key to enabling our societies to move past the pandemic. And this remarkable success of vaccine research, manufacturing and distribution is almost miraculous. It is a reminder of the life-changing impact of research-based pharmaceutical innovation and the true value of industry and government working together to accomplish big things.
But our work doesn’t end with vaccine deployment in the United States and in Greece. We cannot end the pandemic until we have built a wall of immunity around the world.
Last month, President Biden convened a global COVID-19 Summit on building back better global health security. The Summit participants set ambitious targets, including support for the World Health Organization’s goal to vaccinate at least 40 percent of the global population by the end of 2021 and 70 percent by the time of the United Nations General Assembly in 2022.
The Summit also called for surges in oxygen supplies for inpatient health facilities, PPE manufacturing capacity, and improvements in the detection and monitoring of new variants.
Finally, the Summit called for targets to improve the global public health system, including the establishment of sustainable health security financing and increasing political leadership and attention to biological crises.
These are all areas where the United States and Greece are working together. I was very glad that Prime Minister Mitsotakis was able to participate also in the Summit, where he emphasized that Greece’s priorities are very similar to those that I’ve just described.
We are also working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to expand ties with the Hellenic National Public Health Organization, to share information and best practices more closely, something the Minister and I were able to discuss just a few weeks ago.
But governments cannot solve health challenges alone. We need our partners in the private sector and in academia.
Many of you in this room and listening online have been working tirelessly over the past 18 months to bolster the health system, participate in COVID-19 research and treatment, and strengthen Greece’s response. I would like to thank you all for your outstanding work and commitment.
As I said last year at this conference, the global health crisis has strengthened and validated the partnership between our two countries, as evidenced by the many AmCham companies that stepped up to help the Greek government and private sector to respond to the pandemic, including Abbott, Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and Envipco.
Looking beyond the pandemic, we need to build on this momentum to raise our ambition and increase innovation and bilateral investment.
I just came from an extremely productive discussion that Minister Plevris had with AmCham’s healthcare committees. And I know that AmCham is eager to partner with the government on policies that will further stimulate investment, research, development, and economic growth, not to mention improving the health and lives of Greek citizens.
American healthcare companies like Merck, GE, AbbVie, and Bristol-Meyers Squibb are at the forefront of the latest medicines and tools to combat chronic diseases. U.S. innovators are developing and using cutting-edge technologies like AI, big data analytics, and genetic research to create the next-generation antimicrobials, to ameliorate Alzheimer’s disease, and develop vaccines for unknown threats yet to come.
Greece is an ideal partner and ideal environment in which to develop these new technologies and solutions. The Pfizer Center for Digital Innovation, recently inaugurated by Albert Bourla and Prime Minister Mitostakis in Thessaloniki, is a prime example of this dynamic. Investments like these create economic growth, reverse brain drain, and contribute to global public health.
In addition to advancing innovation in new pharmaceuticals and medical devices, the continued digitization of healthcare services is an area where I see significant potential for our bilateral cooperation.
In this regard, I want to congratulate the government, especially Minister Pierrakakis, Minister Plevris, and before him Minister Kikilias, for treating the pandemic, even though it was a time of great crisis, also as an opportunity to improve services to the public and reduce bureaucracy through digital technology.
American companies like Google, Palantir, and AWS have shown how secure, transparent access to data and services can inform government policies, improve interactions with citizens, and increase efficiency. I should add in this regard that I am still struck by the number of Greek citizens who have told me how miraculous they have found it that their emvolio (vaccine) appointments showed up as if like magic on their telephones, and that their vaccination certificates followed as soon as they completed their second vaccination. Greece is changing!
U.S. companies will continue to help drive the digital revolution here, as Greece rolls out electronic medical files and expands the electronic prescription service, among other world-leading initiatives.
As Greece continues to distinguish itself as a forward-leaning, innovation- and investment-friendly market for healthcare companies, I know that more of America’s leading pharmaceutical, medical device, and technology companies will take notice and begin to call Greece home, just as Pfizer has done with its significant new investment in Thessaloniki.
We are not out of the pandemic yet, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we know exactly what we need to do to get there. It will take all of us – governments, researchers, and industry – working together to meet that goal. And working together, I’m confident that our countries will be safer and prosperous as a result.
I wish you great success with HealthWorld 2021. And I look forward to hearing about the outcome of these discussions and the continued results of the fruitful dialogue between the AmCham healthcare committees, Minister Plevris, and his team at the Ministry.