European Immunization Week: 26 April-2 May 2021 “Vaccines bring us closer”
European Immunization Week: 26 April-2 May 2021
“Vaccines bring us closer”
Athens, 22 April 2021 – European Immunization Week – celebrated every year in the last week of April – aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. The messages of this year’s 16th European Immunization Week (26 April-2 May 2021) focus on the contribution of vaccines to protecting health and wellbeing throughout life, with particular emphasis on COVID-19 vaccination as a vital tool for ending the pandemic and its impacts. The Hellenic Association of Pharmaceutical Companies (SfEE), based on the core message of the WHO campaign “Vaccines bring us closer”, highlights the importance of the timely and widespread implementation of immunization programmes for eliminating life-threatening diseases (e.g. diphtheria, polio) and vaccine-preventable infections, as well as the importance of vaccination against COVID-19.
The widespread implementation of vaccination programmes contributes to a longer life expectancy, a healthy population and savings on healthcare resources. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccine programmes in low- and middle-income countries prevented 37 million deaths in 2000-2019, and this number is expected to reach 32 million by 2030. A characteristic example is the extremely low incidence of measles in 2020, thanks to vaccination. In order to preserve the benefits of vaccination in future, high population coverage with the vaccines known to date must be maintained.
Especially in the current circumstances when the global community and healthcare systems are being tested by the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination is an investment in the country’s human capital, economic growth and prosperity.
As a responsible social partner, SfEE continues to actively support prevention and to advocate the value of cooperation among all stakeholders in the widespread implementation of vaccination programmes. The big lesson from the pandemic is that healthcare should now focus on preventing and controlling chronic diseases. Investment in prevention, as is probably known, is investment in public health and in the economy. A recent study by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that every dollar spent on childhood vaccination saves $3 in direct costs and $10 in total costs to society.
SfEE member companies every year strive for the timely delivery of sufficient quantities of vaccines to meet health needs. However, the development of a long-term national vaccination policy, the setting of targets, the application of mechanisms for monitoring and recording vaccination coverage and the implementation of public awareness campaigns are urgently necessary.
SfEE President Mr. Olympios Papadimitriou stated on this occasion: “The scientific community and the pharmaceutical industry make every possible effort towards the development and mass distribution of vaccines that can shield the population against deadly diseases, but this effort needs to be assisted by the State. Significant steps have been taken in our country over the last couple of years, such as the exclusion of vaccines from the pharmaceutical expenditure ceiling and the establishment of an additional dedicated budget outlay, which is welcomed by the industry. However, a key priority of healthcare policy should be the development of comprehensive and long-term prevention policies, which can bring long-term benefits to the system and the health of the population. It is worth noting that diseases that are no longer seen, such as smallpox, measles or polio, claimed millions of lives until a few decades ago, so adhering to vaccination schedules is important for achieving optimal health. Vaccination is an act of individual but also of social responsibility, given that through herd immunity it provides protection to those who have not been vaccinated. It is important that public awareness programmes are intensified during the ongoing pandemic and continue after its end, with particular emphasis on the long-term benefits of vaccination for infants and children, as well as for the adolescent and adult population. We must not overlook the recent dramatic decline in routine vaccinations among children and adolescents amid the pandemic and the potential risks this poses to the protection of the population. The National Vaccination Register, which has been hastily announced and legislated, must be implemented immediately!”
 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine: Vaccines against 10 diseases prevented 37 million deaths in low- and middle-income countries in the last 20 years. Available at: https://www.lshtm.ac.uk/newsevents/news/2021/vaccines-against-10-diseases-prevented-37-million-deaths-low-and-middle-income