WHO calls on European Parliament to increase political commitment to immunization

"Vaccines have an excellent safety record and are among the most efficient and cost-effective instruments that we have in public health", said Dr Roberto Bertollini, Chief Scientist and WHO Representative to the European Union during an exchange of views in the European Parliament to discuss issues surrounding vaccination and vaccination policies in the European Union. The discussion took place during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), in Brussels, Belgium on 15 June 2015.

Vaccination programmes have drastically reduced the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases. Despite historic gains over the past decades, such as eradication of smallpox and achievement of polio-free status, European Union countries have faced several outbreaks of measles and rubella over the past five years. Nowadays, the key challenges for vaccination policy in the European Union include vaccine hesitancy, complacency and reaching underserved populations.

 "WHO is concerned about mistrust in vaccination programmes among some groups of the population," said Dr Bertollini, who urged Members of the European Parliament to make use of good science as the basis for policy decisions and to close the immunization gap in Europe by urging Member States to implement the European Vaccine Action Plan 2015-2020 (EVAP), which was adopted by all Members of the WHO European Region in 2014.

In addition, concerns of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases persist and gaps exist in routine vaccination coverage at national and regional levels. In this sense, more political commitment is needed to reach the targets set in the vaccination plan.

Dr Bertollini concluded asking Members of the European Parliament to ensure their countries' commitment to the EVAP vision, a world in which all individuals enjoy lives free from vaccine-preventable diseases. The ultimate success of EVAP depends on the commitment of Member States and partners.