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Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, saving between two and three million lives worldwide annually. In addition, an extra two million lives could be saved with the introduction of vaccines such as meningococcal, pneumoccocal and rotavirus vaccines. Each year, 2.5 million children worldwide still die of diseases that can be prevented with vaccination [1]. While many new vaccines will soon be on the market, several challenges still remain concerning the existing vaccines and immunisation policies, even in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region where vaccination uptake at the national level is generally high, with rates over 90 % [2]. However, these figures conceal the fact that many vaccinations are not administered in a timely way – i.e. according to the recommended national vaccination schedules – as well as the disparities in vaccination coverage at subnational levels. Both factors increase the risk of outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles; and indeed outbreaks of measles have again been occurring in western Europe since 2006 [3]. Regardless of the European country there are pockets of susceptible populations, contributing to an estimated 600,000 children (based on the coverage rates) in the Region, that miss their routine vaccination annually. These susceptible populations, which include certain ethnic and religious minorities as well as some migrant populations, are not vaccinated because they often lack the knowledge about the importance of immunisation or access to the services. In some extreme cases, the willingness to vaccinate is influenced by an unfounded scepticism among parents [4] about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, fuelled by anti-vaccination movements with dubious motives. These issues were recently pointed out in editorials published in Vaccine [5], the Weekly Epidemiological Record [6] and the European Journal of Public Health [7], which addressed the importance and the future of immunisation in Europe, and clearly stated the need to keep timely immunisation high on the agenda and boost routine immunisation programmes

Year: 2013
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