Programme coordinator: Pierluigi Lopalco
Deputy Programme coordinator: Lucia Pastore Celentano
Vaccination to prevent disease is commonplace in Europe today. Certain diseases have already been eradicated by rigorous vaccination campaigns, while others are hoped to be eliminated soon, such as measles and congenital rubella. Yet challenges remain. New vaccines that are being developed against existing diseases such as infections with human papillomavirus and may be developed against newly emerging diseases in the future, need to be monitored and evaluated.
Some vaccines are still underutilised. Although vaccination has become increasingly safe and effective, one of the major challenges we face is opposition in the population against immunisation. We may have become too used to the benefits of vaccination, some diseases now being so rare that we do not even remember how devastating their consequences can be. Immunisation programmes are threatened by insufficient information, by unsubstantiated rumours about adverse effects, or by groups that, for religious or other reasons, are opposed to vaccination. Communication of the correct scientific facts it is therefore important to enable both policy makers and the public to make an informed choice.
Objectives of the programme
The programme on vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD) was set up in 2006 and covers vaccination issues in general and the following 14 diseases in particular: diphtheria, human papilloma virus (HPV) infections, measles, mumps, pertussis, poliomyelitis, rabies, rotavirus infection, rubella, tetanus, varicella, and invasive bacterial infections with Haemophilus influenzae type B (HiB), Neisseria meningitides, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.
Issues regarding influenza, tick-borne encephalitis, tuberculosis and viral hepatitides A and B are covered by other programmes at ECDC.
The programme's activities are developed in collaboration with the international key stakeholders and immunisation experts in the European Union (EU).
Each EU citizen should receive correct evidence-based information on vaccines and have the same immunisation opportunities. A high level of safety and quality should be assured in all phases of the vaccination process, in particular well-trained staff, adequate vaccine storage, secure storage of patient records, follow-up of adverse reactions, as well as surveillance of local vaccination coverage.
The programme's long-term objective is the control and elimination of VPD in the EU Member States.
We aim to provide:
- Scientific advice on vaccines that will support policy makers in their decisions regarding the national vaccination schedules. This includes the vaccines against diphtheria/tetanus/poliomyelitis (DPT), influenza, infections with human papillomavirus and rotavirus, pneumococcal disease, tuberculosis (BCG), etc.
- Improved vaccine safety through monitoring and managing of adverse events at EU level;
- Standardised procedures for the detection and reporting of VPD outbreak;
- Comparable data on disease burden, vaccine coverage, and impact of vaccination from national surveillance systems;
- Quick reports and risk assessments in emergency situations;
- Standard training to improve professionalism in the field of VPD in the EU;
- A regular newsletter that informs about new developments and policies, conferences and workshops, and comments on a selected scientific publications.
The VPD programme at ECDC is supporting the Member States in the following activities:
- Identification and assessment of threats posed by VPDs or adverse events following vaccination;
- Surveillance data collection, analysis and reporting;
- Organisation and participation in international collaboration on overreaching issues by working groups of experts, workshops, scientific panels;
- Coordination and conducting of scientific working groups;
- Assessment of the national immunisation programmes(country visits);
- Communication activities promoting vaccination.
In order to centralise data collection and analysis, the coordination of the activities of several European networks will be transferred to ECDC. Important milestones for the VPD programme have been/will be the transition of
- EU-IBD, the European Invasive Bacterial Diseases Surveillance Network
- EUVAC.net, a European surveillance network for vaccine preventable infectious diseases in 2008
- VENICE (the Vaccine European New Integrated Collaboration Effort) in 2009, a project devoted to share expert knowledge on vaccination with a view to the different immunisation programmes in the Member States;
- EDSN, the European Diphtheria Surveillance Network, formerly DIPNET