In the fight against diseases that can be prevented by vaccines, the European Commission on April 26 issued a set of recommendations about how the EU can strengthen cooperation.
“Vaccination is one of the most powerful and cost-effective public health measures developed in the 20th century,” said Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis. “As a medical doctor, I find it disheartening to witness children dying because of low uptake, vaccine hesitancy, or vaccine shortages. Infectious diseases are not confined within national borders. One member state’s immunisation weakness puts the health and security of citizens at risk across the EU. Cooperating in this area is in all of our interests. Protect our children, vaccinate!”
According to a European Commission press release, vaccination saves between 1 and 3 million lives worldwide every year. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), vaccines will save 25 million more lives in the coming decade.
The Commission’s proposal focuses on three main pillars for action: tackling vaccine hesitancy and improving vaccination coverage; sustainable vaccination policies in the EU; and EU coordination and contribution to global health.
The proposal calls for 20 concrete actions by the Commission and member states. These include developing and implementing national and/or regional vaccination plans by 2020, including a target of at least 95% vaccination coverage for measles. Another measure involves the introduction of introducing routine checks of vaccination status and regular opportunities to vaccinate across different stages of life, for example in schools and workplaces.
The Commission has also proposed the creation of a European vaccination information portal by 2019 to provide online objective, transparent and updated evidence on the benefits and safety of vaccines.
According to the most recent data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), measles cases continue to increase in a number of EU and EEA countries. In the 12-month period between 1 March 2017 and 28 February 2018, 14,813 cases of measles were reported through the European Surveillance System.
The Commission’s proposal for a Council recommendation will be discussed by the Council, with the aim of seeing it adopted before the end of this year, with an immediate entry into force. Following this, the Commission will report on progress made in the implementation of the recommendation every three years. A report on ‘The State of Confidence in Vaccines in the EU’ will also be published in order to monitor attitudes towards vaccination, in the context of the State of Health in the EU process.
The Reuters news agency reported that the Commission plans to discuss the proposals with the 28 member states and try to ensure they are adopted as law before the end of this year, with immediate entry into force.