Despite the well-documented safety and effectiveness of vaccines, EU/EEA countries and nations worldwide are constantly grappling with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, revealing insufficient vaccination coverage rates.
Undoubtedly, the EU/EEA’s routine immunisation programmes have demonstrated commendable resilience, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, as we praise these achievements and the immense dedication they entail, we are also facing persisting disparities in vaccination rates between countries and regions.
Inequity in routine immunisation
In addition, the existence of pockets of population sub-groups in the EU/EEA that did not finish the primary vaccination course for routine immunisation (partially vaccinated) — or are not immunised at all — is very concerning. For example, according to ECDC data, between 2012 and 2021, approximately 2.4 million children in the EU/EEA may not have received three doses of the polio vaccine on time.
Despite the European region’s uninterrupted polio-free status of two decades, the continued periodical detection of the virus in other regions, in its wild form or as vaccine-derived strains, serves as stark reminders that the threat lingers. As long as there are non-vaccinated or under-vaccinated population groups and polio is not eradicated globally, the risk of the virus being reintroduced in Europe remains.
Healthcare professionals should be empowered
to be effective advocates of vaccination.
Lifelong vaccination approach
It is equally crucial to emphasise the importance of a lifelong approach to vaccination. Vaccination programmes protect people of all ages, including adolescents, pregnant women, adults, individuals living with chronic diseases and the elderly.
People across all age groups should be encouraged to consult their respective national vaccination schedules, talk to their healthcare providers and ensure they adhere to recommended vaccination plans.
Continuous work is essential to identify immunity gaps, especially in hard-to-reach populations, such as refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and other socially or medically vulnerable and underserved population groups.
Additionally, there is a continuous need to understand the drivers of suboptimal vaccine uptake in a given population, to ensure that appropriate interventions are implemented in response. This includes tailored communication strategies aimed at building trust and addressing issues with vaccine acceptance. Healthcare professionals should be empowered to be effective advocates of vaccination.
Supporting and strengthening national routine vaccination programmes remains a key priority for ECDC, on the principles of quality, safety and efficacy of vaccines, as well as timely and equitable access.