A new European Industrial Strategy; the importance of securing a well-balanced vaccine ecosystem in Europe

By Sue Middleton, President of Vaccines Europe

Today, the European Commission launched the European Industrial Strategy, an ambitious agenda for the European Union to ensure long-term sustainable growth.

As highlighted in the current European Commission’s political guidelines, “A sustainable Europe is one that opens up opportunities, innovates, creates jobs and offers a competitive edge to its industries.”.  The vaccines industry helps Europe to tick all of these boxes and is a strategic sector for the European economy.

Europe has a long history of vaccine discovery, development and manufacturing, and benefits from a strong industrial infrastructure, critical to respond to major public health threats. The vaccines industry is a highly successful global sector and a very significant proportion of its manufacturing, research and development operations are based in Europe. Every year, 1.7 billion vaccines are produced in Europe, which is three quarters of the global vaccine production of Vaccines Europe members[1]. The vaccine industry is a strong innovator and invests 16% of revenues in research and development. This high rate of investment is 50% greater than the software and computer services sectors[2].

Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective preventive measures existing today and a foundation of public health programmes in Europe and worldwide. It makes a substantial contribution to health, healthcare systems, and society at large.

However, health systems are still built largely on treating illness, as opposed to promoting health. In Europe, spending on prevention is relatively low compared to overall healthcare spending: on average, less than 3%[3] of healthcare spend goes towards prevention, and only 0.5% of EU Member States’ total healthcare budgets is dedicated to immunisation programmes[4]. The number of vaccines that are included in national immunisation schedules differs significantly within Europe, between countries and with regards to vaccination over the lifespan[5]. When it comes to investing in healthcare, we should ask ourselves whether the balance is right, and how spending more on prevention could improve the European economy, as health is a key enabler of a competitive economy.

Maintaining Europe’s lead in such a key sector is critical and requires a long-term vision, a vision towards a well-balanced vaccine ecosystem, which recognises the true value of vaccines for European citizens as well as the strategic economic value of the industry. We look forward to working with the Commission to ensure that the European Industrial Strategy helps to advance the competitiveness of the vaccines industry as a key strategic sector for the future and thus supports improving the health of Europe.


[1] Based on the data provided by Vaccines Europe members in 2019: https://www.vaccineseurope.eu/about-vaccines-europe/vaccines-europe-members/

[2] Data provided by WifOR Institute is based on the 2018 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/bcbeb233-216c-11ea-95ab-01aa75ed71a1/language-en.

[3] Gmeinder M; Morgand D;Mueller M (2017). How much do OECD countries spend on prevention? https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/f19e803c-en.pdf?expires=1569405811&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=6744C8AF05558BA46D9F2FB79CEBD486.

[4] Ethgen et al. (2018): Vaccination Budget in Europe: an update. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 2018, Vol. 14, (12), 2911-2915. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21645515.2018.1504528

[5]  Sheik et al.(2018), A report on the status of vaccination in Europe, Vaccine, Volume 36, Issue 33, 9 August 2018, Pages 4979-4992