April 26, 2018 / 1:10 PM / in a year

EU wants coordinated vaccine push against measles, other diseases

(Reuters) - The European Commission urged EU member states on Thursday to cooperate more closely in fighting diseases such as measles and flu, saying vaccines against them were among the most powerful and cost-effective public health measures.

FILE PHOTO: EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis gestures after a news conference in Brasilia, Brazil March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Setting out the Commission’s plans, health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said all European Union member states should develop and implement national or regional vaccination plans by 2020 and include in them a target of at least 95 percent coverage for measles.

Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show that several EU countries are facing unprecedented outbreaks of measles - a highly contagious disease that can kill.

The ECDC has also warned of a resurgence of other vaccine-preventable diseases because of poor vaccination coverage.

“Infectious diseases are not confined within national borders,” said Andriukaitis. “One member state’s immunization weakness puts the health and security of citizens at risk across the EU. Cooperating in this area is in all of our interests.”

The Commission also called for the introduction of routine checks of vaccination status and regular opportunities for older age-groups to get immunizations in schools and workplaces.

It also proposed establishing a European vaccination information portal to provide objective, transparent and updated evidence online on the benefits and safety of vaccines.

The Commission said it would discuss the proposals with the 28 member states and try to ensure they are adopted as law before the end of this year, with immediate entry into force.

ECDC data show that in the 12 months from March 1, 2017 to Feb. 28, 2018, more than 14,800 measles cases were reported through the European surveillance system.

The ECDC also estimates that at least 40,000 people a year in Europe die from flu, partly due to low vaccine coverage.

Editing by Gareth Jones

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