At an event held today in the European Parliament, political representatives noted the lack of progress by EU Member States towards the target of 75% vaccination coverage in the elderly and in risk groups, 1 foreseen by the 2009 Council Recommendation. 2
Speakers from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and the World Health Organization agreed on the need to seize the opportunity presented by the 10-year milestone since the 2009 Recommendation for renew efforts to increase coverage rates and address major public health challenges associated with seasonal flu.
Starting from a recent study on the public perception of seasonal flu diseases and vaccinations in four EU countries, 3 and considering some of the best national practices, the speakers stressed the need for all stakeholders to come together to simultaneously address the issues of trust, convenience and complacency towards the flu vaccine.
Potential solutions were discussed and identified, which would help address specific problems and progress towards the 75% coverage target, to be achieved in ten years, such as:
Voluntary exchange of best practices between EU countries on how to increase seasonal flu vaccination rates. Such an exchange could take place within the cycle of initiatives on the EU’s state of health. 4 Following the publication of the 2019 State Health Profiles, the European Commission could establish voluntary exchanges between EU countries, in particular by focusing on flu vaccination policies and programs. 5
EU guidelines on data collection for seasonal flu vaccination rates. The goal of these guidelines is to define what needs to be collected, when and how. Currently, data is collected differently and at different times in different Member States, which creates an irregular framework in the EU. Common guidelines on data collection would make it possible to monitor progress on reaching the 75% target in all risk groups and to propose appropriate measures to achieve it.
Measures to allow all competent healthcare professionals to provide vaccinations in strategic locations . For example, by allowing vaccines to be administered in places such as in the workplace, local pharmacies and schools. The data show that in states where pharmacists can administer vaccines, the number of vaccinated people increases. 6 The EU has a key role to play by encouraging the sharing of best practices and offering guidelines to Member States which will then have to introduce adequate legislation and policies to implement these practices.
Further effort by EU Member States, as well as by the EU and WHO, to improve knowledge, education and confidence in vaccines, both by citizens and healthcare professionals . In some countries, as many as 36.4% of general practitioners do not believe that seasonal flu vaccination is important, and in other states the percentage of citizens who consider it important is only 40.4%. States like Spain and Portugal present best practices, with population awareness rates of almost 80%. 7
All stakeholders should join forces, for example, in a multi-stakeholder coalition and end a European day of awareness about the influence , 8 which helps to strengthen the awareness about the importance of influenza vaccination.
Dolors Montserrat, co-organizer of the event, MEP and former Spanish health minister, said that ” to progress towards wider vaccination coverage, especially for people with chronic diseases, we must:
Raise awareness among health professionals and policy makers on the problem, to promote trust in institutions and vaccine suppliers;
To empower patients, promoting their correct information and encouraging them to take part in the decisions regarding the most appropriate and most convenient therapies for their health in terms of cost-benefit;
Combat false news and disinformation campaigns through promoting reliable sources of information about vaccination, and through exposure to positive media messages. ”
” The EU has recently devoted a lot of political attention to vaccination, not least through the 2018 Council Recommendation on Enhanced Cooperation Against Vaccine Preventable Diseases, the EU Joint Action on Vaccination and the Global Summit on Vaccination in 2019 However, the drop in seasonal flu vaccination coverage rates shows that much more needs to be done, both at European and national level, “said Magdalena R. de Azero, executive director of Vaccines Europe, who organized the event. . De Azero concluded: ” This event highlights the need for institutions, governments, healthcare professionals and industry to work together to meet this challenge.”
Seasonal flu represents a significant but often underestimated challenge from EU health systems. Compared to other infectious diseases, it has the greatest impact in terms of mortality and incidence and is estimated to cause up to 70,000 deaths in the EU each year, particularly among groups with an older age. 910 Its impact is particularly incisive among the elderly and other risk groups.
The latest European data (2017, published in 2019) show that no EU member state has reached the 75% coverage target. Indeed, many countries have experienced a drop in rates, some falling to single digits (Latvia 6.9%, Estonia 4.8%). The EU state with the highest rate, the United Kingdom, has recorded rates steadily around 70% in recent years (currently 72.6%). 11
Information on Vaccines Europe
Established in 1991, Vaccines Europe is a specialized group of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) which represents the main vaccine companies based on innovative research, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises operating in Europe, which represent a large percentage of vaccines used worldwide.
1 As defined by the ECDC. https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/prevention-and-control/vaccines/risk-groups
2 https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri= OJ: L: 2009: 348: 0071: 0072: EN: PDF
3 The full study will be published shortly. Supervised by Professor Frederic Bouder of the University of Stavanger.
5 https://ec.europa.eu/health/sites/health/files/vaccination/docs/2018_vaccine_services_en.pdf .
8 For example: https://www.immunize.org/
9 https://www.eurosurveillance.org/ content / 10.2807 / 1560-7917.ES.2018.23.16.17-00454
11 https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/ web / products-eurostat-news / product / – / asset_publisher / VWJkHuaYvLIN / content / DDN-20191209-2