Health campaigners have warned that the number of measles cases will continue to rise if vaccination isn’t brought back up to previous levels. And in a recent report, the WHO has found the disease has returned in four EU countries that had previously eliminated it.
In the UK, Greece, the Czech Republic and Albania, new outbreaks of measles have been blamed on anti-vaccination campaigns on social media. There have also been increases in the number of cases in other states, including Poland and Slovakia.
In a poll carried out by Eurobarometer, 85% of EU citizens believe vaccines are effective in preventing diseases. However, nearly 50% believe they can also cause serious side effects.
Although the EU has been working on increasing awareness and coordination on vaccination programmes, the WHO found that, in the first half of 2019, the number of cases had doubled from the previous period – from 44,175 to 89,994.
The group Vaccines Europe believe that this is inaccurate, and that vaccines are essential and should be encouraged by the EU.
But some health groups believe that it should be up to individual member states, not the EU, to decide whether vaccination should be mandatory and to develop their own strategies to increase coverage.
In an interview, Dr Günter Pfaff, chair of the European Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination said: “Re-establishment of measles transmission is concerning. If high immunisation coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die.”
Last year, the European Commission proposed that it could strengthen its voluntary cooperation against vaccine-preventable diseases. This was not adopted by the council, but it’s been agreed that action needs to be taken to stop “forgotten” diseases returning.
Going forward, Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis has called for policymakers and health professionals to make sure the public is fully informed in order to boost national vaccination programmes.
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