Madame la Ministre,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, a warm welcome to Belgium! I am particularly pleased that this year's launch of the European Immunisation Week is taking place in my country. And so it gives me great pleasure to join you today to launch officially 'European Immunisation Week 2011'. I am grateful for this opportunity to highlight an issue that I consider to be of great importance. This is why I accepted to become a Special Representative of WHO Europe in its fight against vaccine-preventable diseases in Europe. No child or adult should ever again die of these diseases.
Mrs Jakab, I thank you and WHO Europe for your trust in me and I can assure you of my support.
Today's message is simple "to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases in Europe". However, in order to achieve this, a firm commitment from all States and full cooperation among them are required.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our greatest priority is to protect our children as much as possible. Parents need to be aware that it is good parental practice to have their children properly vaccinated against such vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, rubella, polio as well as mumps and whooping cough.
As a mother of four small children, I am fully committed to this on a personal level. But my commitment to raise awareness about immunization extends far beyond the bounds of my own family.
Immunization is one of the most cost-effective health investments that a society can make. It is one that protects not just the individual but also entire communities, countries and regions from diseases that can result in sickness, disability and even death. But, we should not forget that immunization is at its most effective in preventing disease when everyone works together.
During the past year, we have witnessed something quite disturbing in the European countries region. Falling immunization coverage rates have led to outbreaks of diseases that were previously rare or eradicated in Europe. In 2010 we saw an outbreak of polio, the first outbreak we have witnessed in the region since 2002. Hundreds of children in the Central Asian Republics and Russia were infected with the polio virus and some lost their lives - tragically, to a disease that could have been prevented. In western Europe - closer to home- we have seen numerous outbreaks of measles. Indeed, thousands of measles cases have been reported since the beginning of this year. In an age where vaccines can give protection against such diseases, it is alarming to see outbreaks continue to occur. The cost is high - both in health terms and because of the financial burden placed on a country's health system.
At last September's meeting of the WHO Regional Committee, the countries of the European region adopted a WHO resolution to renew their commitment and accelerate action to eliminate measles and rubella by 2015. This target date can only be achieved if countries work together. No country can expect to be successful without the support and commitment of its neighbours and the region as a whole. With this in mind, the European Immunization Week 2011 theme encourages to find "shared solutions to common threats".
Je suis convaincue que, grâce à notre collaboration, des solutions peuvent être trouvées pour faire face à ces menaces et que nous les trouverons.
Je félicite les participants au lancement de la Semaine Européenne de l'Immunisation pour avoir donné la priorité à notre rencontre et manifesté ainsi leur solidarité. Je me réjouis de vous entendre échanger vos expériences portant sur la façon de réagir à l'irruption de maladies et je serai heureuse d'apprendre comment vous envisagez la poursuite du processus visant à leur éradication.
Finalement, à un niveau plus large, cette initiative de la Semaine Européenne de l'Immunisation offre à l'Europe entière l'occasion, de reconnaître l'importance et la nécessité d'endiguer les maladies qu'un vaccin peut prévenir.
Je me réjouis de pouvoir célébrer en 2011 une semaine européenne de l'immunisation couronnée de succès et de collaborer avec l'OMS et ses partenaires pour soutenir cette initiative durant l'année qui vient.
Je vous remercie.
I thank you.