Vaccination at the heart of EU report on how to ‘Make Health Great Again’

Dr Harish Madhava

Editorial Board

April 24th, 2018

Dr Harish Madhava
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‘European Health Parliament calls for ‘empowered pharmacists’, electronic vaccination records, and better vaccine forecasting to tackle infectious diseases ’

The European Health Parliament – a group of more than 50 young professionals working in the health sector and EU policymaking – has published its annual report on how to ‘Make Health Great Again’.

The group chooses five priority areas of health policy each year and produces a concise but insightful overview of where the EU needs to take action to prepare for the future. This year, it selected vaccination as a key area and spent six months consulting with a wide range of experts in public health, vaccination, communication and health policy.

While the body may not have the power to make final decisions, it has a good track record in helping to set the European health policy agenda. Presenting its report to the European Commission and Members of the European Parliament at a roundtable event in Brussels, the European Health Parliament set out three actions that it views as essential to reducing the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Key recommendations

1)  Create empowered pharmacists, encourage Health Care Professionals (HCPs) to act on vaccination and curate trustworthy digital information online

2)  Establish an electronic vaccination passport to ensure people know and act in their best interests on vaccinations

3)  Increase dialogue between vaccine manufacturers and national health authorities to improve the vaccine forecasting and combat vaccine shortages

Read the report in full

‘Vaccination programmes are a European success story, but they have recently become victims of their own success. Many well-known vaccine-preventable diseases (VDPs) have made a comeback,’ the report says. ‘Measles was on-track to be eradicated by 2020, but Europe observed a 4-fold increase in measles cases in 2017 compared to 2016. This backsliding has many causes, but it is an unacceptable state of affairs.’

It called for more training and power to be given to pharmacists, allowing them play an active role in advising the public and delivering vaccines. Doctors, nurses and others should also be encouraged and trained to take a leading role in addressing public attitudes to vaccination.

Combatting #fakenews

The report proposes the establishment of a European task force to curate online vaccination content, helping the public to separate evidence-based information from low-quality or inaccurate material.

‘Ultimately, we want to see the good work of the Vaccine Safety Net universally adopted and expanded as a European Union trust mark,’ it says.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a WHO initiative that endorses high-quality websites. Vaccines Today is part of this 57-member network.

Time for action

Xavier Prats Monné, Director General of the European Commission’s health directorate, thanked the group for taking time out of their busy lives and for recognising immunisation as a vital area in public health.

‘This is a new, clear, compelling voice in the EU policy landscape – that of young Europeans working on health care,’ he said. ‘Vaccination is the most powerful preventive public health intervention to protect populations against a large number of communicable diseases – yet across Europe coverage rates are too low and decreasing, and both the supply and access to vaccines remain a major policy challenge.’

Mr Prats Monné and several MEPs committed to exploring how the report’s recommendations could be turned into concrete actions at EU level.