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Protecting European citizens against vaccine–preventable diseases

Vaccination certainly constitutes one of the most cost-effective health interventions existing today, preventing 2-3 million deaths every year globally[1]. Thanks to vaccination, generations of Europeans have no memory of epidemics: "out of sight, out of mind" – leading to the belief that vaccination might not be necessary anymore, or on the contrary, actually might be harmful.
 
The Global Vaccination summit organised by the EU Commission and WHO under the hashtag #VaccinesWork showed the EU and International authorities’ commitment to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, and advocate against the spread of vaccine misinformation worldwide.
 
Further commitment was evidenced in the EU Commission President-Elect Ursula von der Leyen’s mission letter to Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner-designate for Health.  The letter asked for priority to be given to “communication on vaccination, explaining the benefits and combating the myths, misconceptions and scepticism that surround the issue.” It is of utmost essence that the Commission continues to prioritise vaccination during its next tenure.
 
We need to bear in mind that there is not a single solution to this challenge. Action effectively tackling the drivers of hesitant behavior need to be taking place at EU and national level. We congratulate the Commission for fostering collaboration between the EU and Member States via the Joint Action on Vaccination and for launching an ambitious roadmap on vaccination[2]. The roadmap is based on the Council recommendation on strengthened cooperation against vaccine-preventable diseases, adopted unanimously by the member States in December 2018 and the Commission Communication[3].
 
I want to highlight one of the Roadmap’s initiatives that could help to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases and this is the setting up an EU Coalition on Vaccination launched in spring this year. The engagement of physicians, nurses and pharmacists in actively increasing vaccination coverage is crucial considering the reference point and the most trusted ‘ambassador’ in building and maintaining confidence in vaccination. The Coalition brings together European associations of healthcare workers as well as relevant students´ associations in the field to support delivering accurate information to the public, combating myths around vaccines and vaccination, and the exchange of best practices on vaccination. It is a great initiative and a step forward in view of engaging the HCPs at EU level and in getting their commitment to develop strategies for more effective communication on vaccination. It is also worth noticing that similar initiatives are being set up in some EU Member States, such as The Netherlands and Ireland.
 
Another way to stop the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases is by facilitating access to vaccination services. Access to vaccination varies depending on the country/community and can take place in many settings e.g. vaccination centres, schools, doctor/general practice offices, care homes, hospitals and increasingly, pharmacies. Depending on national regulations, vaccination is delivered by a doctor or consent is provided to a trained vaccine professional before a person is vaccinated. Expanding the remit of appropriately trained professionals who can administer vaccines can improve convenience and access to vaccines for a wider range of the population. In several EU countries, such as Portugal, Ireland, UK and recently France have adopted local legislation to allow pharmacists to become involved in administering some vaccines.
 
The Council Recommendation calls on the Member States to “simplify and broaden opportunities to offer vaccination, leveraging community-based providers” and it is for the Member States to act on this.

 
 
[3] Council Recommendation on strengthened cooperation against vaccine-preventable diseases and the Commission Communication https://ec.europa.eu/health/vaccination/overview_en

 

Magdalena R. de Azero

Magdalena R. de Azero, Executive Director Vaccines Europe, has more than 15 years professional experience working...
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