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“The time to act is now,” says Dr. Harsh Vardhan while virtually addressing the 149th Session of the WHO Executive Board Meeting

Dr. Harsh Vardhan successfully completes his tenure as Chairperson of the Executive Board of WHO

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in his capacity as Chairperson, Executive Board, World Health Organization (WHO) addressed the 149th Session of the WHO Executive Board Meeting from Nirman Bhawan today through Video Conference. Dr. Harsh Vardhan successfully completes his tenure as Chairperson of the Executive Board of WHO today.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan reminded the audience of the brave, distinguished, and honorable men and women who as COVID Warriors across the world have given away their lives so that humanity may survive.

His speech is as follows:

These are moments of mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I feel happy and privileged to have served this prestigious organization. On the other hand, my heart feels heavy as I exit amidst a lot of work that remains to be done and as the planet continues to reel under the pandemic crisis and economic turbulence.

In May 2020, I was entrusted with the responsibility to be the Chair of the Executive Board. It was indeed an honor for me to lead the apex governing body of the World Health Organization during the 147th and 148th sessions of the Executive Board as well as its Special Session on the COVID-19 response.

It was a privilege to represent the Board at the recently held 74th World Health Assembly on 31st May 2021, and which I’m certain will help strengthen the COVID-19 response and accelerate progress towards the triple billion targets and Sustainable Development Goals.

I commend the World Health Organization for its steadfast support to all Member States throughout the pandemic, fully committed to the value of equity and the simple truth that no one is safe until all are safe. 

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator is the fastest, most coordinated, and successful global collaboration in history to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. The COVAX Facility has provided a much-needed mechanism to secure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines – a true embodiment of our principle to not leave anyone behind.

I’m inspired that the World Health Assembly vigorously supported equitable global access to COVID-19 medicines and vaccines. Global solidarity and cooperation are fundamental to all areas of the pandemic response and must continue to be strengthened.

“The time to act is now,” says Dr. Harsh Vardhan while virtually addressing the 149th Session of the WHO Executive Board Meeting

The time to act is now. This is a time when we all understand that there are going to be many urgent health challenges in the next two decades. All these challenges demand a shared responsibility because these are shared threats requiring shared responsibility to act. And, of course, this is also the core philosophy of WHO. I have been saying this time and again that the biggest need of the hour is a greater degree of Shared idealism of nations.

In such a dire global crisis, both risk management and mitigation require further strengthening of global partnerships to rekindle interest and investment in global public health.

One most important task is to drive higher commitments in respect of diseases that have plagued humankind for centuries. We need to conquer the adversaries with collaborations and by supplementing each other by pooling our resources.

Although WHO is already providing thought leadership to the entire world in the sphere of public health, there is always scope, as well as the need, to catalyze further change. We have to be more aggressive in engaging in partnerships where joint action is needed, shaping the research agenda and stimulating the dissemination of valuable knowledge.

At a critical time like the present pandemic, there is no scope for the industry to stick to Intellectual Property Rights. Sometimes, we find that there is little willingness for collaborative research. Affordability too is a key driving factor to achieve our aim of Health for All. WHO, along with others such as the World Trade Organization, must find ways to ensure affordable access to such key drugs in critical times.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan believes in the principle that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. In the present context of the pandemic, the biggest challenge before us is the equitable distribution of vaccines.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan believes that we at WHO must all rise to the occasion, To save the powerless and the voiceless, To see hope in these darkest of hours. This is one chance, one moment to forge open collaborations and reaffirm that fundamental truth that the world is one.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan draws from the Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam – the world is one family. We must, therefore, commit to working with the Member States; the Organization, and the global community of partners for the efficient, effective, and responsive discharge of our public health obligations.

It is that fundamental belief that will be our guiding principle. For us, vaccines for health must go to the affluent as well those without wealth.

“The time to act is now,” says Dr. Harsh Vardhan while virtually addressing the 149th Session of the WHO Executive Board Meeting

Many of you have commented that my tenure as Chairman of the Executive Board has gone past very fast. And, yes it has, it has been a very rewarding experience for me. It has been a very affirming experience for me. And I’m looking forward to handing the baton to my successor.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan feel honored that you all placed your trust in me and that I have been Chairman of the Executive Board during one of the most turbulent years in the history of mankind. And yet also, this is the year where our scientists worked relentlessly. They moved at a record pace to give us the lifesaving COVID19 vaccine.

My friends, this has also been the Year of Science. This year holds great importance for grounding decisions that took place in the fields of science, evidence and data.

It had all come like a bolt from the blue, Little did any of us realize at the time, how dramatically we would be put to the test.  But, “match the moment” we have done. 

Healthcare workers across the world are working long hours in hospitals, sleeping in their basements or hotels so they do not infect family members. Scientists are working overtime to develop new vaccines and treatments; you are all countering the endless false narratives circulating across media channels and doctors are reopening medical practice so we can meet the postponed health needs of our patients. In the middle of all this, Lakhs of healthcare and frontline workers have been lost forever.

But, I do have hope. However, that hope is up to us.

It is up to us, at the WHO – an organisation that the world revers – to demonstrate how to understand more, to be the voice our members can trust in this time of trial and tribulation and to lead on action to move us forward in this difficult, perilous time.

To all of us, I would also like to say congratulations for passing this test. Your resilience and determination to serve the society continued to thrive during this toughest period. I want to thank you for your hard work and the sacrifices you all made to drive the decisions we did.

I once again thank you for reposing your faith and trust in me as the Chair of the WHO Executive Board. I sincerely appreciate the support of all Vice-Chairpersons, the Director-General Dr. Tedros, all Regional Directors, especially the South East Asia region Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, in the successful conduct of the Executive Board sessions. Dr. Harsh Vardhan also wants to thank all Board members – including the outgoing members – for their support and guidance and for enabling all that we have achieved.

Thank you and Namaste.

Director-General of WHO congratulated the outgoing chairperson of the WHO Executive Board, Dr. Harsh Vardhan for his pivotal leadership to global health. Dr. Tedros made his remarks and also presented a gavel to Dr. Harsh Vardhan in appreciation of his stewardship as Executive Board Chair. He appreciated Dr. Harsh Vardhan’s personal participation apart from his official contribution as a Chairperson. He also congratulated the Union Health Minister for receiving the Special Director-General’s Award of WHO. Appreciating his contribution towards Tobacco control, the Director-General of WHO said that Dr. Harsh Vardhan has been a true champion of Tobacco control from taking steps to stop pitting to starting a National Tobacco Quit Line and enforcing an e-cigarettes ban, he has been instrumental in driving global efforts towards Tobacco Control.

Dr. Patrick Amoth, Kenya has been elected as the new Chairperson of the Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO). Apart from the distinguished members of the WHO Executive Board, the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Representatives of Member Nations, all the Regional Directors of WHO were present

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