This week (25 to 30 April) is European Immunisation Week, which gives health advocates like myself the opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination for every child.
As a medical doctor by profession, I can say with conviction that vaccination programmes are one of the greatest achievements of public health. They have contributed to the eradication of polio and smallpox in the EU and led to a significant decline in a number of other infectious diseases.
‘Herd immunity’ is dependent on a high rate of vaccination coverage, and I am therefore concerned by the rise in vaccine scepticism, which has led to some parents refusing or delaying vaccines for their children.
To date, vaccine coverage remains relatively high in the EU. We must, however, keep a watchful eye and work together to raise awareness on the importance of vaccination and correct misconceptions.
Although vaccination is the in hands of the Member States, the Commission has a role to play supporting the countries in maintaining or increasing vaccination against a range of vaccine-preventable diseases.
I am committed to stepping up EU support for national efforts through, for example, facilitating the sharing of data and exchange of best practice, providing technical support to national public health campaigns, and providing tools and scientific advice.
We are already working with Member States in the Health Security Committee to address vaccine needs related to shortages and also to examine possible options to address current vaccine needs, in particular for most vulnerable groups, such as infants and children.
We also support Member States in their efforts to address vaccine shortages on a longer term by exploring options such as a voluntary mechanism for sharing vaccines in case of urgent need.
We also need more research and innovation not only to develop new vaccines but also to monitor the impact of vaccination, assess the effectiveness of risk communication and develop a life-course approach to vaccination. We are working on this hand in hand with Member States.
In addition, I strongly encourage Member States to make use of the Joint Procurement mechanism. Twenty-four of them have now signed a Joint Procurement Agreement that enables them to buy medicines - including vaccines - together at better conditions.
Although I am an advocate for vaccination 52 weeks of the year, this week my message is especially loud and clear: All children and adults in Europe, whether they were born here or have recently arrived, deserve the health protecting and life-saving gift of vaccination!
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