The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has revamped the vaccine calendars on its website to make it easier to see when vaccinations are due in each of the 30 countries covered by the agency. It is searchable by disease and by age group and regularly updated.
What’s more, the new interactive site which was developed in collaboration with Le Groupe d’Etudes en Preventologie, allows users to compare the vaccine schedules of two countries – a major improvement and something EU Health Ministers called for in June 2011.
Good news for parents, but good news for health professionals too. With Europe’s population more mobile than ever, doctors frequently see families who have recently relocated from another country.
The trouble is that vaccination schedules are not identical across Europe. In the past, this has been a major headache for a GP in, let’s say, France, with a three-year-old patient who has lived for a time in Portugal.
For example, the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella is given at 12 months in France, with a second dose before the age of 2 years. But in Portugal the second dose is given between the ages of 5 and 6 years.
A doctor in France needs to know at what age each vaccines are typically given so that they can ensure their young patient does not miss out on their second dose of MMR or other vaccines which are offered at different times from one country to the next.
Compiled with the support of national experts, the ECDC’s new vaccine schedules tool will be regularly updated with the help of designated contact people at national level. In addition, the data can be exported as an Excel file and saved or reused.
Tarik Derrough, an expert at the ECDC in Stockholm, told Vaccines Today, that vaccines schedules are the most popular resource on the ECDC’s website. He says the new version is more dynamic and more easily updated than past incarnations.
“This tool will be especially useful for people moving around in Europe. It was developed partly in recognition of the greater mobility in Europe these days – people often live in one European country for a few years and then move on,” he said.
Derrough said he hopes the revamped website will inform conversations between parents and frontline healthcare workers. “As a comprehensive source of information it will be of great benefit to health professionals.”
Indeed, if it helps spark make it easier to ensure children are immunised against vaccine-preventable diseases, the benefit will be universal.
Transcript of interview with Tarik Derrough
Vaccines Today: Why did ECDC decide to develop this vaccine calendar tool?
Tarik Derrough: The information we had on our site on vaccine schedules was one of the most viewed pages of our site so we knew there was demand. This project is also part of the ECDC’s response to the Council conclusions from June 2011. While information on national schedules is available from national ministries, we see great benefit in having all this information in one place.
VT: What languages will it be in?
TD: The information will be in English and of course there will be the link to the source information in local languages.
VT: Does it differentiate between different regions within countries – such as Spain or Germany – or is it purely national schedules?
TD: For the time being, the information will focus on the national immunisation schedules and not specify regional policies.
VT: Who will update the information used in the tool and how often will this be done?
TD: This will be done in collaboration with ECDC national contact points for vaccine-preventable diseases. They were consulted when we were updating the information and they will be the ones informing us of changes in the future. Eventually, we envisage making it possible for national contact points to edit the page directly so that the latest information is always available.
VT: Will it be accessible on smart phones as well as online?
TD: For the time being it will initially be an online resource, generally used on desktop computers. It is accessible on tablets and mobiles via web browsers but it is not a dedicated mobile application. We are considering developing a mobile app but the first step was to roll out the site and then build on that over time.
VT: The WHO’s Regional Office for Europe is working with national authorities to help develop app which parents can use to record vaccinations and set reminders for future immunisation appointments. Is there any connection between the ECDC project and the WHO project?
TD: We are aware of the WHO initiative and have kept each other informed throughout the process, although there is no formal link between the two.
VT: Who do you think will benefit most from the new site?
TD: This tool will be especially useful for people moving around in Europe. They will be able to compare directly the vaccine schedules of two countries. It’s partly in recognition of the greater mobility in Europe these days – people often live in one European country for a few years and then move on. As a comprehensive source of information it will also be of great benefit to health professionals. We hope it will help people have informed discussions with their health professionals.
VT: How will this new platform be promoted?
TD: It will be launched during European Immunisation Week and we will promote it through social media channels and through our own informal networks. We intend to flag it to national partners as to stakeholders such as groups representing health professionals who can then raise awareness with their members.
VT: What do you see as the main advantages of the new site compared to the previous version?
TD: The information was more static in the past and was not standardised across countries. You couldn’t export the information or compare countries. Users can now compare by country or by disease and, from a technical point of view, the data can be updated without delay. We see it as a totally different tool – it’s an interactive platform.
View a presentation by the ECDC’s Tarik Derrough on this topic, delivered in October 2012 at a European Commission conference on childhood immunisaiton