Mitsotakis in Kluge: We use all the tools to increase vaccinations


THE Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met in the morning with him World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe, Hans Kluge, at the Maximos Palace. During the meeting, the evolution of the pandemic in Greece, Europe and the rest of the world, the vaccination rates, the health policies and the activity of the new WHO Office in Athens were discussed.

At the beginning of the meeting they had the following dialogue (informal translation from English):

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Welcome, it is my pleasure to meet you again in Greece, during this difficult period. It seems that the coronavirus has the ability to constantly surprise us. As you know, we have moved vigorously to increase vaccination rates. We make use of all the tools at our disposal, including the measure of compulsory vaccination for citizens over 60 years of age.

Yesterday in Parliament I explained my reasoning: when we look at all the data it is absolutely clear that this is the age group that is affected disproportionately much by the virus. And we have 500,000 Greeks over 60 who have not yet been vaccinated.

It is my moral obligation to use all the tools at our disposal to convince them of the need to be vaccinated.

It is striking that since we announced the measure we have seen a significant increase in vaccination appointments by members of this age group. We are also pioneers in Europe, I believe, in opening vaccination lines with the booster dose, for all citizens. And we encourage the Vaccination Committee to consider giving the third booster dose, four instead of six months after the second dose.

What we need is to boost vaccinations before Christmas and that is what we are trying to do.

I would also like to thank you for your support in all matters, not just the pandemic. Of course we must first defeat Covid, in order to act more systematically in order to address other important issues and improve the health system.

It is my pleasure, then, that you are again in Greece and thank you for all the support you have offered to the Greek Government.

Hans Kluge: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for welcoming me here. I remember very well the previous discussion we had and it is impressive how quickly moves were made under your personal leadership to stem this wave of pandemics. You have a very well-organized coronavirus vaccination program, very well structured. As you mentioned, you are in the first place in terms of boosting doses. It is one of the five main stabilizers, not only to protect health, to prevent hospitals from collapsing, but also to protect the economy, which we really need to take very seriously.

I saw that, under your leadership, the number of citizens aged 60 and over (scheduling appointments) per day increased tenfold. If I understood correctly from what the Minister, Mr. Plevris, told me, they went from 2,000 to 20,000. So the measures pay off. And, of course, within the legal and social context, we must do everything possible to increase vaccination coverage,

At the same time, you are showing great solidarity with other countries, such as Vietnam, Gabon, Rwanda and others. On behalf of the WHO, I would like to thank the Greek Government for doing what the WHO recommends. Do everything you can: Give boosts but also ensure with solidarity that economically weaker countries are getting vaccines.

I therefore want to express my appreciation. The most difficult is to travel the last mile of this route. We know that. As you said, we stand by your side, we are together.

At the same time, I congratulate you for not hesitating to promote other issues, such as the quality of care. And we are very proud of the Office (of the WHO in Athens) and I will do my best to really be a center of excellence.

I would also like to thank Mr Plevris and his team. I know that the quality of health services is combined with the emphasis on mental health, which is a priority for you, especially in the midst of a pandemic.

Regarding the quality of care, we had a very good discussion with Mr. Plevris but also with the Minister Mr. Adonis Georgiadis. We are collaborating to prepare a proposal for a national framework, the national framework regarding the quality (provision of services) of health that will cover the entire industry in Greece. After all, what I always say is “what is measurable, is feasible.”

And Greece will be the pioneer for the WHO, not only with the involvement of the public health system but also the private sector. Because the pandemic has shown that cooperation between the private and public sectors is very important. And in this pioneering national framework for the quality of health services, Minister Georgiadis said that the necessary resources will be allocated.

The other element on which we have focused our effort is to bring mental health care closer to young people. And at this point I would like to congratulate Undersecretary Rapti, who was in Brussels in July and attended a meeting attended by Queen Mathilde of Belgium, and we founded the Pan-European Coalition for Mental Health. Therefore, we are fully committed to working with you on mental health reform in the country, but also through the WHO Office in Athens for Quality Care for the southeastern countries and the Mediterranean basin.

I am leaving tonight for Budva, Montenegro, for the meeting of the Heads of Government of the Central European Initiative, to meet the Prime Ministers. I will take with me today my visit to Greece and I will convey it to the Prime Ministers there.

In this context, I would like to give you, Prime Minister, a copy of the Monti Commission’s final report. As I mentioned at our last meeting, I have set up the Pan-European Committee on Health and Sustainable Development to review policy priorities in the light of the pandemic in order to prevent similar catastrophic events in the future.

The chair was chaired by Professor Mario Monti and was attended by 18 high-level commissioners. We now have a new strategy for health and sustainable development for the region. I would also like to express my appreciation to the person of the Chief Scientific Coordinator, Professor Elias Mosialos, who has been with me since the beginning of this initiative and has really put a lot of effort into it.

We are therefore here to work with you, Mr Prime Minister, on issues concerning the quality of care, the mental health of children. This was our first meeting with the Minister and we immediately realized that there is very good chemistry between us. And I think we have the same high expectations.

Therefore, in this sense, your support is very important. Thank you.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I would like to point out that we have an excellent new team in the Ministry of Health which continues and adds to the very good work that was done before. We have a very nice “mix”. Minister Plevris is a dedicated reformer and I have full confidence in his ability to contribute beyond the pandemic and even use it as an occasion for the implementation of important changes in the National Health System, always focusing on the issue of its quality. care across the range of services. And of course, Deputy Minister Gaga was and still is in the trenches in the fight against coronavirus. Therefore, I believe that it brings a lot of experience in reviewing the organization of our hospitals, where we will also have to do a lot of work.

We discussed the emphasis I place on mental health last time, and Undersecretary Rapti has a catalytic role in advancing this agenda, especially with regard to the mental health of children, adolescents and young people. We must allocate funds for these initiatives and give the necessary public attention. Initially, in order to deal with the stigma associated with mental health, which is sometimes the greatest burden for these individuals and their families, at the time they are battling an, essentially, other form of illness. This is the way we should look at this issue.

I’m glad you are here.

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Health Thanos Plevris, the Deputy Minister in charge of Health Services Mina Gaga, the Deputy Minister in charge of Mental Health Zoe Rapti, the head of the WHO Office in Athens for Quality Assurance and Care of Health , João Breda, and the WHO’s Special Policy Adviser in Russia, Pavlos Theodorakis.

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