“There are no not-safe vaccines and the rumors that connect vaccines with Autism are not true”, says Isabel de la Mata, Principal Adviser for Health and Crisis management in the European Commission. For “Health+” newspaper she talks about EC vaccination policies, their safety, the need to be vaccinated etc. Below you can find the full interview.
What are the EC policies on vaccination? Why is vaccination needed?
Vaccination is the main tool for primary prevention of disease and one of the most cost-effective public health measures available.
Despite its brilliant track record, several EU and neighboring countries are currently facing unprecedented outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases due to insufficient vaccination coverage rates. Unequal access to vaccines and the waning of public confidence in vaccination are a cause for concern and a major challenge for public health experts.
Vaccination policy is a competence of national authorities, but the European Commission assists EU countries in coordinating their policies and programs.
The Commission proposed in April 2018 a Council Recommendation to strengthen the EU cooperation on vaccine-preventable diseases. The initiative aims to tackle vaccine hesitancy, improve coordination on vaccine procurement, support research and innovation, and strengthen EU cooperation on vaccine-preventable diseases.
EU countries are encouraged to develop and implement national vaccination plans with initiatives to improve coverage, and to introduce routine vaccination status checks. We hope it will be approved by the Health Council on 7 December.
Are there any not-safe vaccines?
No. Vaccines, as all pharmaceutical products, are approved after carefully checks either in the European Medicines Agency or in the national medicines agencies of the Member States. Quality and safety are the priorities and they are not put in the market until these characteristics have been verified carefully.
There are a lot of rumors about Autism and vaccination. Has these rumors affect the world wide vaccination? How? Is there a solution about such rumors?
Yes, unfortunately those rumors have been ongoing since already 20 years and have had very serious effects in the decrease of vaccination coverage. These rumors have no sense and have already been discredited by science. Nevertheless they continue. Clear and accurate information to the general public, improved health literacy and continue to fight misinformation and disinformation are part of the solution. We need to increase trust in science and in the messages from the science and health community
The MMR vaccine objectors say that the three vaccines must be separated to not cause autism. Why do we not do such a thing to press the rumors?
Because it is not true. There are different reasons to put vaccines together, from avoiding increased number of shoots, to obtain better reaction. Separate the three components of the MMR vaccine would mean children to have 6 instead of 2 shoots. And the results would not be different.
What will happen if more people decide not to vaccinate their children or to get vaccinated themselves?
That diseases that were on the verge to be eliminated will come back. I don’t know if you remember the suffering from polio, for example, with thousands of children dead or handicapped forever. Or from diphtheria, or meningitis. We had a problem, we have a solution and there are persons that don’t want that for their children? Really I cannot understand it.
There is also a question of social responsibility, of solidarity, of everyone towards the unprotected (babies, elderly, sick, pregnant women…). You not only vaccinate for yourself. You also vaccinate for the others
In Albania 8.1% of the health staff have Hepatitis B and 0,6% have Hepatitis C. Furthermore, in our field work we have seen that a lot of doctors don’t vaccinate their children. Is the situation the same in the EU countries? Are the health staff as well opposing the vaccination process? What are the plans for changing the situation?
No, or not in general. The fact that some health workers present a vaccine preventable disease does not mean that they don’t believe in vaccination, but maybe that vaccine was not available at the time they should have got it and they contracted the disease. For hepatitis B, health workers are a clear population at risk. They can have contracted it because of their work and they can also spread it to their patients. For hepatitis C, there is not vaccine available yet.
In general, health staff have been trained and knows about vaccines and vaccination. We continue to work with Member States, professional associations and international organizations to continue the training and information of healthcare workers and we are planning to launch a Coalition of health workers for vaccination, as indicated in the Council Recommendation.
What would you recommend for the non-EU countries such as Albania in the process of vaccination?
The efforts in prevention produce good returns. If you increase your vaccination coverage, you will need to spend less in treatment from diseases, your children could live a healthy life, workers will not be absent from work, antimicrobial resistance will decrease, life expectancy will increase and economic development will increase. I will recommend to make vaccination a priority and to engage everybody in that process: doctors, nurses, pharmacists, all health workers in general, parents, public, stakeholders, authorities… everybody.
Are you vaccinated?
Of course, and my daughters too. My parents already began my vaccination with what was available at that time, and I continued when I had to decide by myself.
Who is Isabel de la Mata
Isabel de la Mata is the Principal Adviser for Health and Crisis management in the European Commission. Previously, she worked as Counselor for Health and Consumers at the Permanent Representation of Spain to the EU, as Deputy Director General for Health Planning at the Spanish Ministry of Health, as Adviser to the Vice-minister of Health and several other posts at the Ministry of Health of Spain and the Regional Departments in the Basque Country and in Madrid. In addition, she has been a member of the EURO-WHO Standing Committee of the Regional Committee, and has worked with the Pan American Health Organization, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation./ Shendeti.com.al