Faced with the rise of anti-vaccination movements in the developed world, the European Commission and the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted the first Global Vaccination Summit last week, to counter those movements and promote action against vaccine-preventable diseases.
The European Commission’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker, set the tone of the event and the current scene facing the world.
“It is inexcusable that in a world as developed as ours, there are still children dying of diseases that should have been eradicated long ago,” Juncker said. “Worse, we have the solution in our hands, but it is not being put to full use. Vaccination already prevents 2-3 million deaths a year and could prevent a further 1.5 million if global vaccination coverage improved. Today’s summit is an opportunity to address this gap. The Commission will continue to work with the EU’s Member States in their national efforts and with our partners here today. This is a global challenge we must tackle together, and now.”
The WHO has declared that the hesitancy to vaccinate — whether due to complacency or lack of confidence in vaccines’ results — is one of the 10 threats to global health this year. Science has long since settled on the safe and effective nature of vaccines. This resistance now is helping create an environment that WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called a critical turning point, with all but eliminated diseases like measles now resurging.
“We can and must get back on track,” Ghebreyesus said. “We will only do this by ensuring everyone can benefit from the power of vaccines – and if governments and partners invest in immunization as a right for all, and a social good. Now is the time to step up efforts to support vaccination as a core part of health for all.”
At the summit, both men called for an intensification of efforts to stop vaccine-preventable diseases and shore up gaps in vaccine coverage. To that end, attendees addressed rights, regulations, and accessibility, availability, quality and convenience of vaccination services; social and cultural norms, values and support; individual motivation, attitudes, knowledge, and skills — all of which can contribute barriers to vaccination. They also pointed to GAVI, the Global Vaccine Alliance, as a means of supporting vaccine growth in countries with the least resources.