The data from the ECO report on HPV vaccination in Eastern Europe speak for themselves: only 3% of girls have been vaccinated with both doses by 2020; for boys, the ratio is an incredible 0%. It’s a major difference from other regions of Europe, in which the vaccination rate has two figures and reaches 75% in Northern Europe.
If we’re looking at the vaccination against Covid, despite the immediate availability of the vaccines (on December 27, 2020), for the entire eligible population, Eastern European countries are considerably behind the European average rate of vaccination with two doses; the gap increases if we take into account the administration of the booster.
In Eastern European countries that are not members of the European Union, such as Moldova and Ukraine, vaccination rates against Covid are lower than the average rate of vaccination in EU member states from Eastern Europe.
European Immunization Week is an opportunity to bring to the fore the issue of inequalities, the East-West divide in vaccination: both anti-HPV and anti-Covid.
The Berlin Wall, which has divided Europe for decades, fell in 1989. In terms of vaccination, the Iron Curtain still persists, after decades in which Eastern European countries have either become EU members or are on their way to EU membership.
The standard of living has risen every year, GDP has risen steadily with the shift from centralized to liberal economy and globalisation, but public health lags behind the other socio-economic sectors, despite the fact that public health is a prerogative of the EU, not of the Member States.
In recent years, we have contributed to the European Commission’s Cancer Initiatives (BECA, Cancer Mission) by trying to explain inequalities from the perspective of the citizens and of the civil society institution that takes the daily pulse and understands the deep realities of Eastern society.
Reducing these inequalities is possible by including in the research, local, cultural, specific and common factors of many CEE member states, which determine people’s attitudes, perceptions and behavior, including in relation to vaccination.
This change of mindset is possible, and the European Commission and HADEA have already created through the 2022 Calls of #EU4Health and #HorizonEurope, the framework for potential implementation of truly innovative projects aiming to increase the vaccination rate, both against HPV and against Covid. It remains for these projects to be selected, funded and well implemented.
Dear EU Leaders, please tear down this Iron Curtain of vaccination.