Restored faith in vaccination vital in fight against deadly disease, say EU and WHO

Written by Emily Waterfield on 12 September 2019 in News

Fear of vaccinating children means measles is now knocking at every door in Europe, the World Health Organization's director general warned today, at the world's first Global Vaccination Summit.

Photo credit: Fotolia

The European Commission and WHO joined together at the summit to promote ten actions in response to declining faith in vaccination.

"Even in Europe, children are dying of measles," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists in Brussels. “That's why we have to be serious. It is knocking at every door.” he said.

Diseases such as measles, which can be eradicated through vaccination, are “making a comeback and that comeback could be with a vengeance," he said, warning the audience against “vaccine hesitancy."


Through vaccination, patients acquire immunity to diseases such as measles, polio and typhoid by being exposed to a safe form of the disease-causing microorganism. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide through widespread vaccination programmes.

The "Ten actions towards vaccination for all", launched by the Commission and WHO at the summit, include a call to "tackle the root-causes of vaccine hesitancy, increasing confidence in vaccination."

An EU Eurobarometer survey published in April showed a declining level of trust in vaccinations across Europe. More than a third of respondents said they did not see any need to be vaccinated, while 31 percent believed that vaccinations weaken the immune system.

Adhanom Ghebreyesus today said an increase in fatal diseases, associated with the refusal to vaccinate, was "affecting all countries, be it higher income or lower income countries. That's why we are partnering with the European Union."

"Every minute we don't act, we lose lives - especially the lives of children” Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety

Tweeting ahead of the summit, EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis called vaccination "a very altruistic, moral, humanistic act."

"When you vaccinate yourself, you protect not only yourself, you protect all the people around you," the commissioner tweeted on Wednesday.

Speaking at the summit, Andriukaitis said that without vaccines deadly diseases could attack anyone, regardless of "geography, language or skin colour."

"Every minute we don't act, we lose lives - especially the lives of children," the commissioner said.

"Maybe recently, because we don't see the diseases anymore, we think they don't exist," Andriukaitis said.

"Too many people are becoming sceptical about vaccines. We must say once again that vaccines work, and vaccines are safe" Federica Mogherini

Approximately 90,000 cases of measles were reported for the first half of the year in the WHO European region alone, according to data published by the Commission.

EU Foreign Affairs chief Federica Mogherini told the summit that "too many people are becoming sceptical about vaccines. We must say once again that vaccines work, and vaccines are safe."

About the author

Emily Waterfield is a freelance journalist based in Brussels

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