To me, immunisation is a key tool for prevention. It can help save lives, improve public health and generate huge savings for our health systems. Unfortunately, this simple fact is not often known by, and recalled to, the general public.
Figures do not lie. Vaccination has helped save around 20 million lives over the last two decades, and helped to eradicate - or at least significantly reduce the occurrence of - a number of infectious diseases.
Economically speaking, vaccination makes sense. It is estimated that the 2014-15 influenza pandemic had a total cost of €1bn in France and €2.2bn in Germany. In these times of high budgetary constraints on health spending, I don't think any decision maker can remain indifferent to this argument.
In light of all this, I am extremely concerned by the decreasing immunisation rates and growing public distrust towards vaccination. Who is to blame? There are probably many different factors: lack of information, many member states' low budgets dedicated to prevention, the lack of awareness of health professionals.
And of course, one of the main factors in my view, misinformation and anti-vaccines propaganda. I do not have harsh enough words for those who spread this propaganda and twist basic scientific facts to their advantage in order to manufacture doubt in people's minds. Vaccination is a collective responsibility.
An ambitious vaccination policy is not only key to public health, it is also important to sustain the competitive- ness of our vaccine industry. Vaccines are high added-value products, very innovative, and of course strategic for our autonomy.
We need to make sure that Europe remains a leading producer of vaccines worldwide. For this, we need stability of the regulatory framework and long-term visibility over supply and demand. To reach these objectives, there is no need for a new policy framework.
Instead, we have to continue working towards the full implementation of the Council conclusions from 2009 and 2014, which were extremely straightforward, and fight anti-vaccine arguments.
Finally, Parliament should renew its political support to health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, who I know is himself very committed to pushing for an ambitious immunisation policy across all member states.