The world has witnessed the critical importance of immunisation, playing a pivotal role in eradicating and significantly reducing diseases and improving health in Europe and around the world, as well as helping in the fight against pandemics. However, given the major challenges the EU is facing today – including a rapidly ageing population, the climate emergency, conflict at its borders, economic pressures and inflation, declining science literacy and trust in institutions – it is easy to overlook how vital strong immunisation policies are. Yet, many of the challenges we face are interconnected with the spread and rise of existing and new infectious diseases.
Immunisation must be at the heart of building more resilient and sustainable health systems, serving as a powerful tool that prevents sickness, saves lives, saves money and contributes to strong growth and strong communities.
The EU has acknowledged the importance of immunisation, as demonstrated in the 2018 Council Recommendation on Strengthened Cooperation against Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the 2022 Council Conclusions on Vaccination. These initiatives provide the foundation on which Europe and its Member States should build stronger immunisation policies.
Vaccines Europe is the trade association representing the innovative vaccine industry active in Europe.
A strong EU Immunisation Strategy is essential to achieve our mission of an innovative, healthy and prosperous Europe. By prioritising and strengthening immunisation policies, we can enable a framework for better coordination and transparent collaboration among stakeholders, ensure adequate resource allocation and utilisation, bridge existing disparities, and foster equitable access and uptake across all Member States.
Vaccine innovation helps us to be one step ahead of public health threats
Immunisation works in so many different ways. It protects us from vaccine-preventable diseases, certain cancers and new infectious diseases. It reduces the need for some medical interventions, our dependence on antibiotics, and better prepares us for future epidemics and pandemics.
Discovering and developing safe and effective vaccines relies on an innovative research, development and manufacturing ecosystem with robust and predictable intellectual property protection frameworks. Regulatory agility is needed to support faster acceptance of changes in manufacturing processes and more unified packaging, including e-leaflets. To boost its defences against infectious diseases, Europe needs robust surveillance and e-health systems with interoperable databases for collecting epidemiological data, monitoring vaccine coverage rates, and generating high-quality real-world evidence to inform immunisation policy. Recommending and decision-making bodies should be adequately resourced with funding and skilled workforces. This will allow the appropriate and timely evaluation of vaccines and improve the inclusion and uptake of vaccines in national immunisation programmes.
Innovation is also required in the ways we work together to bring new vaccines to Europe. EU policymakers need to improve the transparent collaboration and communication framework between all relevant stakeholders (including the vaccines industry, patient advocacy groups, public health administrations and EU agencies). This will help expedite access to existing and new vaccines, save lives, and ensure crisis preparedness. It will also enhance vaccine confidence of the population and healthcare providers.
The median time is 6 years for new vaccines to reach EU citizens from regulatory approval by EMA, and for 1/3 of EU Member States, it takes more than 6 years
Since 2000, there has been a 35% decline in vaccine clinical trials conducted in the EU
Equitable access to immunisation
Immunisation saves lives; millions of lives each year. It shields us from crippling diseases and disabilities from the moment we are born until the late stages of life, through paediatric, adolescent and adult immunisation programmes. It safeguards public health by protecting everyone against vaccine-preventable diseases. It contributes to preventing antimicrobial resistance. It helps to keep both adults and elderly with weakening immune systems healthy and active, thus contributing to society and the economy whilst easing the growing pressure on health systems.
These immense benefits to the EU’s population enable us to lead safer, healthier, and more productive lives. However, inequalities in accessing vaccines, both amongst and within Member States, age groups and eligible populations, result in significant and unacceptable disparities in vaccine uptake and protection across Europe. We urge each political party and MEP candidate to pledge to ensure equitable access to immunisation across all stages of life and encourage vaccine uptake using the science-based evidence on vaccine acceptance.
We urge the EU to implement the WHO Immunisation Agenda for 2030 and establish life-course immunisation targets to ensure uptake and protection, with implementation guidance and progress tracking as part of an EU Immunisation Strategy. This will help guarantee that all people in the EU, indiscriminate of their socioeconomic situation or age, wherever they live or travel, get the same level of protection. By working together to agree on and achieve these targets, we will contribute to a society that is healthier, more resilient and more equitable for all.
Nearly half a million lives were saved among those aged 60 years and over in less than a year following the start of COVID-19 vaccination in the WHO European Region.
Investing in immunisation pays off
High vaccination rates contribute to economic and social prosperity. They help workforces stay healthy and productive, contribute to economic growth and the free movement of people. They reduce healthcare costs by preventing disruptive illness and help limit days off work due to illness. Investing in immunisation pays off.
Let’s think: in Italy, every €1 spent on adult immunisation creates a total of €16 in savings.
Today, however, a very small percentage of national healthcare budgets goes to prevention; with a minute proportion – only 0.5% – going to immunisation. This is insufficient to accommodate demographic change and improve immunisation rates. Many do not get the vaccines they need and national immunisation programmes face delays in including new vaccines in their schedules. Europe’s Member States should invest in prevention via immunisation. They should ensure that immunisation budgets are increased to better meet the surging public health needs of today and tomorrow. A healthier Europe is a more prosperous Europe.
 Vaccines Europe (2021), The next generation of vaccines rely on improved market access in the EU. Available at: https://www.vaccineseurope.eu/news/articles/the-next-generation-of-vaccines-rely-on-improved-market-access-in-the-eu (Accessed: 9 June 2023)
 Between 2000-2009 the EU accounted for 22% of global trials, over the period 2010-2019 this decreased to 17%, with the period of 2020-2023 registering a further drop to 14%. Data available at: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov.
 Vetrano, Davide L., et al. “Fostering Healthy Aging: The Interdependency of Infections, Immunity and Frailty.” Ageing Research Reviews, vol. 69, Aug. 2021, p. 101351, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2021.101351 (Accessed 9 June 2023)
 ECDC (2021), WHO/ECDC: Nearly half a million lives saved by COVID-19 vaccination in less than a year. Available at: www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/news-events/who-ecdc-nearly-half-million-lives-saved-covid-19-vaccination (Accessed: 9 June).
 Cicchetti, Americo, et al. (2018), Expanding economic analysis for HTA: the fiscal impact of vaccination in the Italian context. Available at: https://www.ispor.org/docs/default-source/presentations/1368.pdf?sfvrsn=2b5b0b0c_1. (Accessed: 9 June).
 Faivre, Pascaline, et al. “Immunization Funding across 28 European Countries.” Expert Review of Vaccines, vol. 20, no. 6, 1 June 2021, pp. 639–647, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33759675/, https://doi.org/10.1080/14760584.2021.1905257 (Accessed: 9 June).