In February 2018 EuroHealthNet responded to stakeholder and public consultations on vaccination.
Vaccination saves millions of people from illness, disability, and death each year. However, marginalised, migrant, and other socially and economically disadvantaged children and families are currently underserved. Better commitment, investment, and outreach programmes are needed for these communities. To ensure the continued success of vaccination programmes, hesitancy should be tackled by providing clear and evidence-based information to the public and health professionals in targeted and tailored ways. It is also necessary to invest in health promotion and education programmes. The strong efforts of Member States should be supported by EU-level collaboration and coordination.
The response suggests three possible activities to be included in the proposal for a Council Recommendation on Strengthened Cooperation against Vaccine Preventable Diseases in mid-2018: (i) Tackling vaccine hesitancy at national and EU level, (ii) Sustainable vaccine policies in the EU, and (iii) EU coordination, including the promotion of stakeholder dialogue, and contribution to global health. A summary of the consultations can be found here.
Vaccine hesitancy or lack of coverage is a product of a complex interplay between social, economic factors, and access to care services (including affordability). It also depends on public dialogue, and varies according to vaccine type. Better communication with the public is key. Clear and evidence-based information should be provided in multiple settings – such as traditional and social media, and interactions with health care providers. The formats should be adapted to linguistic and sensory needs, and levels of health literacy.
Health care professionals need to be supported with access to on-going education and training, as well as specialised courses when new vaccines are introduced, and in specific approaches towards disadvantaged groups. Health care professionals are a trusted group, to whom the public must have good access. There is also a clear opportunity to enhance collaboration and communication between health care professionals, facilitating the transfer of best practices and knowledge.
The EU has an important role to play. It can, for example, facilitate and support networks and information platforms. The Member States could be supported in joint efforts to investigate the causes of vaccine hesitancy, healthcare system responsiveness, and how to place a stronger emphasis on promotion and prevention – this would also support better allocation of public resources. There is also a potential role for the EU to map and make clear vaccination schedules and coverage. It can support better alignment of policies, investment and vaccination schedules, whilst developing more cohesive EU crisis management and preparedness plans.