No 17 - 2018

Annual report on the Danish childhood vaccination programme

Annual report on the Danish childhood vaccination programme

In this week, the WHO celebrates the 13th European Immunization Week. Therefore, EPI-NEWS is published earlier in the week than normally, i.e., on Monday.

Under the slogan “Vaccines Work”, the WHO also this year wishes to place vaccines in the spotlight as a very effective means in the prevention of infections diseases.

In Denmark, the National Health Authority, the Danish Medicines Agency and Statens Serum Institut have jointly and for the fourth time prepared an annual report on the Danish childhood vaccination programme.

The annual report describes the vaccination programme and the activities associated with the programme in 2017.

The annual report is thus designed to serve as a one-stop reference on the childhood vaccination programme that is available on the websites of all three organisations.

Measles eliminated

In the past year, the Danish vaccination programme reached a milestone. 2017 was the year when Denmark was officially declared measles-free, EPI-NEWS 37/17. In September, the WHO announced that Denmark now meets the conditions for having eliminated measles. The condition is that persistent transmission of measles has not occurred in the past three years. And that the country in question has ensured a high monitoring quality and a high MMR vaccination coverage. Fortunately, in Denmark constant monitoring is in place to ensure that the childhood vaccination programme serves its purpose.

HPV vaccination coverage increasing

This year’s leading positive news about vaccines is the increased coverage of the HPV vaccine among young girls. In the spring of 2017, the Danish Health Authority jointly with the Danish Cancer Society and the Danish Medical Association initiated a major information campaign on cervical cancer and HPV vaccination that was underpinned by many other healthcare stakeholders, including the Danish Medicines Agency and Statens Serum Institut.

The aim is to prevent cervical cancer by increasing the coverage of the HPV vaccination for girls who turn 12 years old in years to come and before they turn 18 years of age. Ultimately, the objective is to rise the coverage to the high level achieved before the crisis.

Following concern for the negative trend followed by the HPV vaccine in 2015 and 2016 alike, we are happy to announce that everything indicates that we have broken the negative curve. In the autumn, the vaccination activity reached the level observed prior to the crisis, EPI-NEWS 41/17. The coverage of the HPV vaccine has increased markedly, and a partial evaluation of the information efforts made describes that parents have regained trust in the vaccine.

Other vaccines are also gaining coverage

Another uplifting news story is that in 2017 the coverage rose for all vaccinations forming part of the childhood vaccination programme. And this should be seen in the context of another increase in coverage observed in 2016. Overall, the programme’s coverage is improving, and the positive trend is owed to various factors - in addition to the HPV information measures; among others, the reminder letters sent to parents whose children lack some childhood vaccines, strengthened research, more knowledge about the HPV vaccine, and a generally enhanced awareness of the risks associated with the infectious childhood diseases, e.g. after several measles outbreaks abroad.

Information from the health authorities should reach as many as possible

A high coverage for the childhood vaccination programme can be achieved only if parents are satisfied that the right vaccines are being offered, and if doctors and other health workers have the knowledge and skills needed to give advice on the advantages and drawbacks of the childhood vaccination programme. It is important that the population trusts the authorities’ handling of the vaccination programme.

Therefore it is important to keep initiating efforts to inform of the vaccination offers and in general to inform the population of the fundamental reasons why vaccines are important for health. Vaccination is one of the most effective preventive methods available. And it is important to spread that message to all Danes, including those who do not speak Danish.

In 2017, we therefore had the leaflet about the childhood vaccination programme translated into Arabian, Farsi, Polish and Somali. The leaflet is handed out by the health visitor to new parents. It describes the conditions that the programme vaccinates against, pointing out what characterises each condition and providing general information about the vaccines. The leaflet also describes the mindset behind the childhood vaccination programme.

Special municipal initiatives

Finally, the 2017 annual report introduces a new chapter that sheds light on the special vaccination-related initiatives that are implemented in Danish municipalities. In this context, we would like to draw attention to municipalities whose coverage is far above the national average for one or more vaccines. The report also brings a description of the special efforts made by these municipalities to achieve these amazing results. It is worth noting that the municipalities almost unanimously highlight the inestimable importance of health visitors’ work. We hope that other municipalities may be inspired by these descriptions so that we may work together to increase the coverage of the programme even further.

(The Danish Health Authority, the Danish Medicines Authority and Statens Serum Institut)

Link to previous issues of EPI-NEWS

23 April 2018