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Vaccination in newly arrived immigrants to the European Union

Prymula, Roman, Shaw, Jana, Chlibek, Roman, Urbancikova, Ingrid, Prymulova, Karolina
Vaccine 2018 v.36 no.36 pp. 5385-5390
European Union, disease transmission, health services, immigration, permeability, public health, refugees, sanitation, vaccination, vaccines
The challenge of assimilating millions of immigrants in the European region each year presents significant socioeconomic issues. Among them is the threat of vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs) disease transmission within immigrant groups and the broader population given the permeability of nation state borders. A total of 3.8 million people immigrated to the European Union (EU) in 2014, among those were 1.6 million non-EU nationals. While vaccines have markedly reduced the transmission of disease, clusters of under-vaccinated individuals potentiate the rapid transmission of once-eradicated or controlled diseases. Immigrants pose a special challenge to host country public health vaccination programmes. Wars in their native countries may have interrupted vaccination programmes, documentation may be unavailable or unreliable, and refugees may present with health issues due to poor sanitation and food during transit. Further, immigrants are often reticent to access health care in the destination country, or may face financial or language barriers. Thus, preventive health care needs may go unaddressed and the first contact with a clinician is for an emergency. Equitable access to acute and preventive health care and services, including immunizations irrespective of individual’s immigration status, should be a priority for European region countries. Ensuring appropriate and timely vaccination for immigrants could be accomplished with a universal European region immunization schedule. Priority should be given to highly communicable VPDs such as measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, diphtheria, varicella and polio.