TALLINN - Health ministers of the European Union on Friday approved suggestions for increasing the rate of vaccinations, while Estonian Minister of Health and Labor Riina Sikkut said that the decrease in the vaccination rate is concerning.
The EU ministers approved suggestions for more efficient cooperation in fighting illnesses preventable by vaccination, while other topics discussed at the meeting included possibilities for increasing the coverage of vaccination and improving the accessibility of objective information pertaining to vaccines, the Ministry of Social Affairs said.
Minister of Health and Labor Riina Sikkut said that vaccination is one of the most important and efficient preventive measures of modern medicine. "Even though in Estonia, the vaccination coverage and people's trust in vaccination is high so far, we similarly to many other European countries have seen a year-over-year decrease in the vaccination rate," Sikkut said. "This trend is concerning," the minister added.
Sikkut noted that as problems in Europe are to a great extent similar and common, Estonia supports better cooperation and exchange of information on the European Union level in order to prevent and restrict the spread of epidemics and diseases with a cross-border scope.
"In order to increase people's trust, we foremost consider necessary improving the accessibility of objective information," the minister said.
The document approved by health ministers covers suggestions to member states on compiling vaccination action plans, improving access to vaccination services, training healthcare staff, increasing people's awareness and improving the capability of the exchange of information and electronic information systems on immunization.
The European Commission is weighing the possibilities for harmonizing immunization calendars and introducing a common immunization passport in the European Union. In cooperation with the European Medicines Agency, the goals has been set to establish a vaccination information portal in order to provide objective, transparent and updated evidence on the efficiency and harmlessness of vaccines online.
Activities connected with improving the supply of vaccines have also been planned.
Vaccination coverage varies across countries in Europe but in several countries, it has dropped below the 95 percent rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). People's reduced sense of danger and increased fear of unwanted side effects, which is boosted by false information spread widely on social media, are considered the reasons for the drop in coverage.
According to the European Commission, the trust of the people of Estonia in vaccination is at the EU average. Approximately 90 percent of parents believe that the vaccination of children is necessary and over 80 percent of people believe that vaccines are harmless. At the same time, the vaccination of the elderly against seasonal flu in Estonia has so far been very low compared with other EU countries.