Addressing decreasing vaccine coverage in the EU

The Lancet
Apr 28, 2018 Volume 391 Number 10131 p1637-1748  e19

Addressing decreasing vaccine coverage in the EU
The Lancet
In recent years, the European Union (EU) has seen large outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles due to declining vaccine coverage, supply shortages, and growing vaccine hesitancy. To address the challenges facing vaccination programmes, the European Commission set an ambitious goal: to put together a Recommendation to strengthen cooperation against vaccine-preventable diseases in EU countries. A roadmap for the Recommendation was published on Dec 4, 2017, and was opened for public consultation for 4 weeks. The European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) and the Federation of European Academies of Medicine (FEAM) publicly responded to the roadmap on April 19.

EASAC and FEAM warned the European Commission against a one-size-fits-all approach. They state that solutions to improve vaccine coverage need to be tailored to each member state, and that the proposal to align and coordinate vaccination schedules in the member states will most likely be “an enormous and futile effort”. The Recommendation should recognise that not all vaccines are of equal relevance for public health and individual protection, and should include a priority list for vaccines that are in high need. It should present strategies to invest in research and innovation for vaccines that need improvement. Furthermore, to tackle vaccine hesitancy with optimal communication approaches, the input of social scientists will be essential. EASAC and FEAM also call for the establishment of a European vaccination card and registry, to track vaccination status across the EU, and a monitoring system for vaccine shortage.

The Recommendation has the potential to be momentous, bringing together EU member states in a common goal towards better vaccine coverage. As we went to press, a proposal for the Recommendation was scheduled to be published on April 26. The European Commission should take heed of the medical community’s feedback to clarify the scope and aims of the proposal, or risk continuing to lose the gains for public health brought by immunisation in Europe.