European Commission pushes vaccine cooperation to curb preventable diseases

April 26 (UPI) — The European Commission on Thursday urged its member nations to cooperate more closely in reducing diseases that can be prevented by vaccines.

The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has reported that several European Union countries, including Romania, Italy and Ukraine, are facing high outbreaks of measles, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease.

“Infectious diseases are not confined within national borders,” Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU commissioner for Health and Food Safety” said in an European Commission news release. “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.”

Between March 1, 2017, and Feb., 28, there were 14,813 cases of measles reported through the European Surveillance System. Of those cases, 86 percent were unvaccinated. The ECDP also estimates that at least 40,000 people die every year from influenza, partly due to low vaccination coverage.

The World Health Organization reported measles cases in Europe quadrupled in 2017 from the record low seen on the continent in 2016.

“Vaccination is one of the most powerful and cost-effective public health measures developed in the 20th century,” Andriukaitis said. “As a medical doctor, I find it disheartening to witness children dying because of low uptake, vaccine hesitancy, or vaccine shortages.”

The commission made 20 recommendations that include urging the introduction of routine checks of vaccination status and regular opportunities for older age-groups for immunizations in schools and workplaces. In addition, it proposed European vaccination information website for evidence on the benefits and safety of vaccines. It wants at least 95 percent vaccination coverage for measles in 2020.

It also recommended additional training for healthcare workers, including dealing with people hesitant to vaccinations.

The commission will discuss the proposals with the 28 member states and have them enacted into law by the end of this year.

Worldwide, immunization prevents an estimated 2 million to 3 million deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and measles, according to the WHO. But it said an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves. WHO estimates its vaccination coverage is 86 percent.

In the United States, this year through March 30, 34 people from 11 states were reported to have measles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The federal agency said the majority of the people who got measles were unvaccinated.

In 2014, the United States had a record number of measles cases: 667.

Among children in the United States from 19 to 35 months, the vaccination rates include 84.6 percent for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis; 93.7 percent for polio; 91.9 percent for measles, mumps and rebella, 91.8 percent for chickpox and 92.6 percent for hepatitis B, according to the CDC.