15 September 2021
CARE, - Medicines

Yesterday, on 14th September, the 71st World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Europe adopted a Resolution on the European Immunization Agenda 2030: a flagship initiative of WHO’s European Programme of Work 2020–2025. Immunization is an important medical tool to prevent infectious disease in Europe, and a very key one for people living with airways diseases.

The European Immunization Agenda 2030  is a vision and strategy to disseminate vaccines across all nations and to all people in the WHO European Region for the next ten years. The Agenda is built on three thematic pillars:

  • Equity in immunization – including a focus on subnational areas
  • Immunization across the life course of each person
  • Local solutions to local challenges

EFA welcomes the strategic priorities, and encourages strong patient focus in delivery

This important framework has been drafted in consultation with more than 350 stakeholders from Member States, immunization experts, and Non-State Actors including EFA.

As representatives of patients living with allergy, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), EFA welcomes the initiative of WHO Europe for centring immunisation as a flagship initiative until 2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the challenges in the provision, delivery and communication linked to vaccination during an outbreak, and the weaknesses of a healthcare system that has been to date primarily focused on promoting the childhood immunization calendar.

The Agenda 2030 will help guide Member States reinforcing the immunization delivery through primary care, and deploying life-course immunization in an equitable way. Considering that allergy and asthma predominantly affects young people whereas COPD is more prevalent among the elderly, EFA is pleased to see the commitment to address vaccine-preventable diseases ‘for all age groups across the life course’.

EFA expects it will benefit our patient community, protecting patients living with chronic respiratory disease against flu and flu-originated diseases such as pneumonia that can be prevented through better access the influenza and pneumococcus vaccines.

In our response to the consultation, EFA highlighted the need for a solid framework on the expansion of vaccination coverage across Europe as well as to reduce gaps in vaccine accessibility. We also outlined that this should include fighting against vaccine hesitancy and against the prevalent misinformation around the benefits of immunisation.

EFA also gave feedback on the strategic priorities of the Agenda.

Vaccine surveillance on adverse reactions should be reinforced

EFA welcomes the Agenda’s first priority on surveillance and monitoring of vaccine-preventable diseases, and the proposal to focus on improving the reporting and follow-up of adverse events following immunization.

Adverse side-effects can include potentially life-threatening allergic reactions, which has been brought to the spotlight by COVID-19 with many anaphylactic cases reported following vaccination. Therefore, EFA recommends safety should be a standing principle of every future vaccine initiative in order to build and sustain trust in people, on the basis of full transparency and knowledge.

Our patient community calls registries to cluster secondary adverse reactions to vaccines to be set up, a tool that has been missing at national and regional levels in Europe for long.

Equity and access go hand in hand

On the third strategic priority, WHO Europe commits to coverage and equity. Within this, EFA urges WHO Europe to further explore the use of digital health for the immunization calendars. That way, timeliness can be guaranteed depending on the health status and at all ages. EFA encourages WHO to develop more specific in the the immunization framework to be proposed depending on the population group, and to encourage reimbursement levels based on public health outcomes.

Patient groups should be involved in vaccination awareness and emergency response

The second priority of the Agenda focuses on commitment and demand, and EFA supports the focus to establish champions and spokespersons to increase immunization awareness. We encourage WHO Europe to insist in its discussions with Member States on the cementing role of civil society organisations, including patient groups, to liaise between community and healthcare services.

On outbreak and emergencies, EFA insists that timely, high-quality responses to emergencies for immunisation that should be done in collaboration with patient groups and representatives to ensure that their needs are addressed in the most tailored way possible and go beyond simply the delivery of immunisation.

Huge back up of civil society

The European Immunization Agenda has received a great support from civil society organisations, something stressed during the adoption by Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO Europe Regional Director. Several Non State Actors including EFA, made statements during the Regional Committee for Europe at the end of the discussions:

The European Immunization Agenda for 2030 can be found here.

EFA’s response to the consultation on the European Immunization Agenda draft can be found here.