Vaccination policies of immigrants in the EU/EEA Member States–the measles immunization example

The European Journal of Public Health
Volume 28, Issue 3, 1 June 2018

Migration and health
Vaccination policies of immigrants in the EU/EEA Member States–the measles immunization example
Mihai A Bica; Ralf Clemens
In 2015–16, the European Union/European Economic Area Member States (EU/EEA MSs) experienced an unprecedented volume and rate of migration, posing serious challenges to existing national immunization systems and strategies and raising the questions of where, when and who to vaccinate. We assessed existing strategies for vaccinating immigrant populations in the EU/EEA using measles as an example of the most important vaccine-preventable diseases.
In this cross-sectional study, conducted from March to May 2016, an electronic questionnaire was sent to the Heads of National Immunization Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs) or equivalent policy-making bodies in each of the 31 EU/EEA Member States. Responses were entered into a structured database and validated by survey responders for final analysis.
Validated responses from all 31 EU/EEA NITAGs or equivalents showed that there is no common measles immunization policy for European immigrants. Policies vary widely from no policy at all (9 of 31, 29%) to vaccination of all comers (2 of 31, 6%), or vaccination of selected cohorts based on vaccination history (17 of 31, 55%) or serum antibody analysis (2 of 31, 6%). Further, the operational responsibilities for immigrant vaccination and documentation methods are not unified within the EU/EEA region.
With some notable exceptions immunization policies to contain spread of infectious diseases through migration are either non-existent or vary widely between countries in the EU/EEA. With freedom of movement within the EU/EEA there ought to be harmonization and a common EU/EEA vaccination strategy to replace national policies for immigrant populations.