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European Commission - Statement

Statement by Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis ahead of World Polio Day 2018

Brussels, 23 October 2018

On 24th October, we celebrate World Polio Day and praise the efforts of thousands of healthcare workers, researchers and experts committed to the eradication of polio. Thanks to vaccines, children in the EU no longer die from this terrible disease or suffer severe life-long disabilities secondary to it.

While trust in vaccines is essential for maintaining high coverage rates, a new study published by the Commission shows that confidence in vaccination is declining. The European region has lower confidence in the safety of vaccines than other regions in the world; seven out of the ten countries with the lowest vaccine confidence in the world are in Europe - four of them (France, Greece, Italy, and Slovenia) are in the EU. This is partly due to the rising influence of diverse anti-vaccine groups that spread misleading information through the internet or in political fora. Their influence should make us all cautious.

In addition, a second report published today shows a lack of coordination among Member States and significant differences in national vaccination strategies.

Both studies confirm the need for EU action. Some of the key issues we need to address are fighting misinformation and the lack of awareness in the general population on the risks posed by diseases preventable through vaccination. This is why the Commission proposed a Council Recommendation on Strengthened Cooperation against Vaccine Preventable Diseasesin April 2018.

And to reinforce action at national level, we intend to convene a Coalition for Vaccination to bring together European associations of healthcare workers and students' associations, to commit to delivering accurate information to the public, combating myths and exchanging best practice.

As a doctor I can honestly say that vaccination is truly one of the greatest successes of public health of our time and most cost effective tool in our hands. Vaccination is also a form of solidarity, with the many protecting the few, the healthier protecting the more vulnerable.Vaccines have contributed to the eradication or significant decline in a number of infectious diseases in the EU.

To guarantee the safety of all Europeans, I call on the EU Health Ministers to step up the European coordination efforts as soon as possible and adopt the Council Recommendation in December. Together we can make Europe the safest place to live in.


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