European Immunisation Week: a call for EU political commitment on immunisation

On 24–30 April 2016, Europe celebrates the European Immunization Week with the aim of increasing vaccination coverage by raising awareness of the importance of immunisation among parents and caregivers, health care professionals, policy- and decision-makers, and the media.

This week should give us the opportunity to raise the importance of immunisation as a critical public health intervention and the value that immunisation represents in terms of health and economic returns,” said the Vaccines Europe president, Andrea Rappagliosi. “And in this respect we would like to see more activities organised at EU and national level during European Immunization Week.”

Today, growing hesitant behaviour and complacency towards disease are putting at risk the proper implementation of the National Immunisation Programmes across the EU Member States.

The recently adopted EU Council Conclusions on vaccinations as an effective tool in public health show the way forward by inviting the Member States and the Commission to develop a co-financed Joint Action programme to share best practice on national vaccination policies. The joint European effort between national governments and European institutions should cover the challenges identified in the Council Conclusions, such as:

  1. Improving capacity to implement effectively current national immunisation programmes
  2. Fostering shift towards a life course approach to immunisation to meet public health needs by continuing to improve national vaccination programmes
  3. Facilitate exchange on decision-making for immunisation to strengthen national capacity for carrying out evidence-based, cost-effective vaccination, including the introduction of new vaccines through National Immunisation Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs) cooperation
  4. Supporting R&D and innovation efforts
  5. Addressing vaccine hesitancy and complacency

These challenges are multi-faceted in nature, thus requiring strong political leadership to move forward from the status quo. “Obtaining political commitment at all levels is a must if we want to achieve not only the shared goal of measles and rubella elimination but proper implementation of life-course immunisation through national vaccination programmes,” added Andrea Rappagliosi.

As Europe’s population ages, and we need to keep our citizens in good health for as long as possible, there is a growing appreciation of the importance of adult and senior immunisation through a life-course approach to vaccination. This was reflected in the EU Council Conclusions and, more recently, in Italy’s revised vaccine schedule.

Vaccines Europe supports the setting up of a EU Joint Action which will allow to discuss among stakeholders the challenges outlined in the EU Council Conclusions and calls on Member States, the Commission, regulatory and public health agencies to advance this agenda that is so vital for public health today.