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Steering Group calls for action in fighting influenza

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On Monday 12th March 2018 the Steering Group on Influenza Vaccination released their Manifesto calling for more action to increase seasonal influenza vaccination coverage rates in Europe to reduce the unacknowledged burden of this disease.

The Steering Group has outlined their recommendations for strategies to improve influenza vaccination coverage rates across Europe. The Steering Group is calling for EU and national policy-makers, communities and organisations that represent people most impacted by influenza to increase influenza vaccination coverage in three ways: highlighting the burden of influenza and the role of vaccination; increasing awareness of influenza and improving public trust in vaccination; and improving the exchange of good practice and inter-professional collaboration at local and European level.

The Steering Group’s Manifesto outlines recommendations for the implementation of the strategies to improve vaccination coverage rates and calls for the public health community to come together to support this.

The Steering Group is led by co-chairs Françoise Grossetête, Member of the European Parliament and Prof Thomas Szucs, Director, European Centre of Pharmaceutical Medicine at University of Basel and is made up of eight other representatives including patient groups, healthcare professionals and academics.

The Manifesto and the work of the Steering Group resonates strongly with both the latest European Commission Roadmap to Strengthen Cooperation Against Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the European Parliament’s ongoing discussions around a resolution in support of vaccination. There has been a lack of sustained pressure to improve vaccination coverage rates in recent years but there is now momentum to drive real change and reduce the burden of influenza across Europe, with communities coming together to tackle the avoidable impact of influenza.

Influenza is a life-threatening disease affecting 5-10% of the world’s population annually and resulting in over 650,000 deaths. It is particularly dangerous for vulnerable groups of people such as the elderly, children and those with chronic medical conditions. Influenza vaccination plays a key role in reducing this burden and in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, another priority for EU institutions by reducing the incidence of viral infections and decreasing antibiotic prescriptions. Seasonal influenza vaccination coverage rates remain low and are declining in many European countries. It is estimated that the 2009 European Council Recommendation target of a vaccination coverage rate of 75% in at-risk people is missed by almost 60 million people a year, resulting in around 2 million additional cases of influenza.

“The use of vaccination in reducing the substantial burden of influenza across Europe is not currently optimised. My recent introduction of an amendment to the European Parliament’s motion for a resolution calling on the European Commission to establish targeted vaccination initiatives demonstrates how important the role of vaccination is but still more needs to be done. Our Manifesto aims to provide effective strategies to improve vaccination coverage rates and ensure these are implemented to reach the 75% vaccination coverage target,” said Françoise Grossetête, Member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the EU Steering Group on Influenza Vaccination.

Read the Manifesto in full and pledge your support to the campaign at www.eufightingflu.com or join the conversation on #EUfightingFlu.

The Manifesto recommendations and the implications of these will be discussed at a launch event in Brussels on 24th April 2018, during European Immunisation Week.

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