Vaccination is the main tool for primary prevention of disease and one of the most cost-effective public health measures available. Immunisation through vaccination is the best defence we have against serious, preventable, and sometimes deadly, contagious diseases. Thanks to widespread vaccination, smallpox has been eradicated, Europe made polio-free, and many other diseases almost eliminated.

Current challenges

Today, more than 100 million children are vaccinated annually against diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, tuberculosis, polio, measles, and hepatitis B. Vaccination prevents an estimated 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year and reduces disease-specific treatment costs, including antimicrobial treatments (prescribed for viral infections).

Despite its brilliant track record, several EU and neighbouring countries are currently facing unprecedented outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases due to insufficient vaccination coverage rates. Unequal access to vaccines and the waning of public confidence in vaccination are a cause for concern and a major challenge for public health experts.

Action at EU level

Vaccination policy is a competence of national authorities, but the European Commission assists EU countries in coordinating their policies and programmes.

The Council adopted in December 2018 a Recommendation to strengthen the EU cooperation on vaccine-preventable diseases. The initiative aims to tackle vaccine hesitancy, improve coordination on vaccine procurement, support research and innovation, and strengthen EU cooperation on vaccine-preventable diseases.

EU countries are encouraged to develop and implement national vaccination plans with initiatives to improve coverage, and to introduce routine vaccination status checks.

In addition the Commission supports EU countries in maintaining or increasing rates of vaccination by:

Joint Action on vaccination

The European Commission is reinforcing its support to national vaccination efforts to increase coverage, including through the preparation of a Joint Action on vaccination co-funded by the Health Programme (€3.55 million).

Launching in 2018, the Joint Action will address vaccine hesitancy and seek to increase vaccination coverage in the EU. It is coordinated by INSERM (France) and involves 23 countries (among them 20 EU countries).

It will also work towards strengthening cooperation of national immunisation advisory groups (NITAGs) with a view to increasing transparency and trust in the decision-making process regarding the introduction of new vaccines.

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