Mr. President, Director-General Tedros, fellow
ministers, and distinguished leaders: It is an honor to return to the World Health Assembly,
in my second year as Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Last year, we marked the 100th anniversary of the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed
more than 50 million people. Soon after, in 1919, another significant outbreak, of typhus
in Europe, led health ministers to come together to plan the health component of the League
of Nations, even before the League had its first official meeting here in Geneva.
Today, thanks to efforts made by many nations in this room, international organizations
like the WHO, and the private sector, we are much safer from the perpetual threat of infectious
diseases. But we are not as safe as we ought to be.
We are reminded of that fact by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic
of the Congo, which, as of yesterday, has killed more than 1,200 Congolese.
This outbreak is one of the U.S. government’s top global health priorities, and we have
provided approximately half of the funding to the WHO, DRC, and nongovernmental response.
For years, through the CDC, PEPFAR, and USAID, we have helped strengthen the DRC’s technical
capabilities, including on epidemiological surveillance, data management, and border
health. The administration of investigational vaccines
under the auspices of the DRC has helped mitigate the outbreak and save lives—but the outbreak
is not under control. We believe there is an urgent need for donors to commit to purchasing
more vaccines, now. The United States appreciates the dedicated
personal leadership of Director-General Tedros and his team on this outbreak. We also appreciate
his triple-billion vision for WHO, which aims to have one billion people better protected
from health emergencies, and includes a new focus on outcomes.
To meet this goal, we strongly support full implementation of the International Health
Regulations and the Global Health Security Agenda.
To respond to health emergencies and prevent future challenges, we must all do a better
job educating the public about the safety and importance of vaccinations. Measles was
once eliminated in the Western Hemisphere, but we now have thousands of cases caused
by the collapse of the Venezuelan healthcare system. Even in nations with functional health
systems, including the United States, vaccination rates are still too low. We cannot say it
enough: Vaccines are safe, effective, and vital to public health.
Both the Global Health Security Agenda and vaccination campaigns benefit from the involvement
of every nation, people, and sector. We regret that, once again, Taiwan was not
invited to observe at this assembly, as they were from 2009 to 2016. The 23 million people
in Taiwan deserve a voice just as much as anyone else does.
We continue to urge the WHO and all member states to welcome a greater role for the private
sector on all health challenges, whether infectious or non-communicable diseases, access to medicines,
or any other. The United States supports universal health
coverage, and we believe that means focusing on access to a high-quality, person-centered
healthcare system, not selectively focusing on controversial issues that do not help us
reach this worthy goal. The U.S. government recently launched a major
new effort to improve access to primary care. Instead of paying doctors a flat salary or
per-service fees, this initiative will reward doctors when they keep their patients healthy.
A top priority of the American people, and therefore a top priority of mine, is the availability
of affordable, safe, and effective medicines. Over the last year, President Trump has introduced
more competition and negotiation to the way the United States pays for medicines.
We proposed reference pricing for medications for the first time, injecting competition
into a large government-run program that previously accepted any price manufacturers suggested.
It is my duty to ensure that American patients have access to cutting-edge cures, and we
will protect innovation incentives just as vigorously as ever. But under President Trump,
the United States will never be a bystander to abusive drug pricing practices.
I look forward to working with many of you to increase access to medicines, and we can
start by focusing on strengthening our regulatory systems and supporting the development of
safe, effective generic and biosimilar drugs. Finding ways to work together on these issues
and many others, we can build a better, healthier, and more prosperous future for our citizens.