President von der Leyen at the event “Fighting Infectious Diseases – Focus on Africa”

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Dear Dr Tedros,

dear President Hoyer,

dear Dr. Özlem Türeci

dear Professor Uğur Şahin,

distinguished guests.

The history of science is made of long periods of slow progress, followed by great breakthroughs and scientific revolutions.

Our fight against malaria is a case in point.

For decades, science has worked hard to eradicate malaria.

And the European Union has been a proud partner in this work.

We have supported tens of malaria research projects, ranging from diagnostics to treatments, from prevention to vaccines.

And in the last twenty years, the number of malaria victims was cut by more than half.

Still, more than 400,000 people die of malaria every year.

Two thirds of them are children under the age of five.

But finally, a breakthrough may be at hand.

We are witnessing the start of a revolution in medical science.

The revolution of messenger RNA.

In these months, the whole world has seen the power of the mRNA technology – pioneered by BioNTech and others.

You, Özlem Türeci and Ughur Şahin, have cut the time needed to develop a new vaccine from ten years to ten months.

Thanks to this, billions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are being produced for Europe and the world.

And the mRNA technology can be a game-changer in the fight against other diseases too. Including malaria.

A safe and effective malaria vaccinehas long been an elusive target.

But this could change now.

This is where today’s initiative comes into play.

Today we are joining forces towards a breakthrough in malaria vaccine development.

The European Commission and the European Investment Bankare throwing their weight behind the global effort to develop mRNA vaccines against malaria.

We will do so through our Infectious Diseases Finance Facility.

And we will work together with BioNTech and with some of the main global health actors.

Eradicating malaria is a realistic goal.

And now we know that it can be achieved already in this generation.

Indeed, “the time is now”.

This initiative is part of a broader engagement by the European Union for health in Africa and in the developing world.

Africa today imports 99 % of its vaccines.

Our African partners want to end this dependency.

And we want to help them achieve this goal.

Last May, at the Global Health Summit in Rome, we announced a Team Europe initiative on manufacturing vaccines in Africa.

The initiative is backed by one billion euros from the European budget and the EIB.

And some European countries have announced that they will also join forces.

Our first goal is to bring new technologies to Africa.

We’re working together with pharmaceutical companies, that successfully manufacture in Europe.

If we join forces, mRNA vaccines can be produced inside the African continent.

But to create sustainable structures, we need to look beyond COVID-19 vaccines.

The new plants in Africa could be shifted to production of new vaccines against malaria or tuberculosis.

Of course, this is a project that takes years to set up.

But if we succeed, we will not only be better equipped for the next pandemic.

We also invest into an African continent, finally free from malaria.

I am proud that Europe is part of this endeavour.

Thank you all for being here and for your essential contribution to eradicate malaria.

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