Unprecedented steps for an ambitious EU health programme and future crisis preparedness

Vaccines Europe welcomes the new EU4Health Programme as a milestone undertaken by the European Commission (EC) which gives health an ambitious priority both in terms of investments and building resilient health systems as an outcome of the COVID 19 crisis.

With €9.4 billion investment, the EU4Health Programme symbolises a promising response of the EU institutions to equip Europe with enhanced cooperation and coordination among the Member States in preventing and controlling of the spread of severe human diseases across borders.

Promising emphasis on prevention and vaccination

The EU4Health Programme puts a strong emphasis on the ability to foster disease prevention,  which is the cornerstone of the health program.

Vaccines Europe specially supports the actions related to vaccination that are sequenced as part of the objectives of this Programme[i], namely: improving vaccination coverage rates in the Member States, fighting vaccine hesitancy, and speeding up the development, authorization and access to innovative, safe and effective vaccines. We are also very much looking forward to the uptake of the EU digital agenda, with the positive outcomes it can play on vaccination in Europe, working with authorities to better understand the evolution of a disease and thereby targeting the immunization calendar in a real-life. This would also lead to achieving the goal of a greater EU crisis preparedness mechanism.

Vaccination constitutes one of the most cost-effective preventive measures existing today and a foundation of public health programmes in Europe. Despite beliefs and thanks to continuous innovation in vaccine-preventable diseases, vaccination is not only for children anymore. Vaccination programmes can protect individuals across their life-span providing best protection to the population at all stages of life depending on their risk of infection (health status, age, life-style, occupation). However, we observe huge disparities across the EU in accessing life-course vaccination programmes, in the ability to monitor timely the coverage rates and consequently, in the level of implementation that require high coverage to benefit from the full value of vaccination.  Moreover, the overall spending on vaccination is relatively low compared to overall healthcare spending: on average, less than 0.5% of Member States’ total healthcare budgets is dedicated to immunization programmes. The adoption of the EU4Health Programme will be a significant tool to build on progress in recognizing the value of vaccination and partnership with the EU and governments leaders to build up capacity and preparedness for future crisis, and make a trend shift towards greater investment in vaccination and health.

Towards resilient immunisation programmes[ii]

While we are still facing the pandemic, an initial learning came across on the importance of prevention and thereby the unique role of vaccines – being it at the individual protection stand but as well at a population level. Todays’ life-course immunisation programmes can protect on a routinely basis against up to 18 infectious diseases.  However, many vaccination programmes (for example against measles, HPV, influenza, pneumococcal infections or shingles) are not reaching the sufficient level of protection in many countries where implemented and are fragile to external threats (e.g.vaccine hesitancy, sudden outbreaks).

A major barrier to sustained high vaccination coverage and trust in immunisation programmes lies in the difficulties of our healthcare systems to properly prepare for and respond to crises. Therefore, it is crucial for such a key instrument as the EU4Health Programme, to embed a holistic view on the value of vaccines and further embrace it – both in the strategic planning as well as in its further implementation towards building resilient immunisation programmes.

Read our position paper on “Time to unclock the full value of vaccineshere.

[i] Annex I to the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of a Programme for the Union’s action in the field of health – for the period 2021 – 2027 and repealing Regulation (EU) No 282/2014 (“EU4Health Programme”).

[ii] https://www.europeanfiles.eu/health/resilient-immunisation-systems-looking-beyond-high-vaccination-rates.