Council establishes vaccination priorities for influenza A

On 12 October, the Health Council endorsed a strategy for a coordinated EU approach to the H1N1 influenza pandemic. It addresses key issues such as vaccine availability, global cooperation and the continuity of essential services.

Health ministers of the EU have developed a joint strategy for establishing priority groups for vaccination against the H1N1 virus as well as guidelines for collaboration to curb the pandemic influenza A.

Ministers agreed that member states with no vaccine procurement agreements should consider joining forces by bundling their tender notices. Those that do have agreements could consider making vaccines available to others. The European Union restated its readiness to support wider international cooperation under the auspices of the United Nations. 

To avoid disruptions in transportation (of food, drugs, fuel, etc.), communications and energy supply caused by the pandemic, ministers agreed to step up their multi-sectoral coordination.

According to the statement of the Health Security Committee last August, which established three priority groups for vaccination, the Council has decided to give priority to receive vaccines to:

  • Chronically ill persons.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Healthcare workers.

Depending on the evolution of the pandemic and the different conditions in member states, country-specific approaches may, however, be needed.

In recent days, new pandemic flu injections have been authorised in Europe. As there will not initially be enough vaccines available, member states must prioritise.Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the application of the existing robust regulatory procedures which guarantee that efficient, safe and high-quality injections are available across the EU.

According to the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention there have been 204 deaths so far in member countries and EFTA countries because of influenza A virus.