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EU Disease Agency Wants COVID Vaccine Tracker Applied To 40 Other Vaccines

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By Clara Bauer-Babef 

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(EurActiv) — EU countries need to further develop tracking tools to monitor vaccine rates, the director of the EU’s infectious disease agency (ECDC) said, amongst talks of centring the role of digital health in preventative care.

“A good example of the benefit of data in health is the COVID tracker”, said ECDC director Andrea Ammon during a conference (7-9 February) on the importance of prevention in sustainable healthcare systems.

Aylin Tüzel, the country manager at Pfizer Deutschland, agreed that the pandemic has been a real opportunity to highlight the benefits of digital health, particularly online platforms that collect data on COVID, such as the Covidtracker website.

“For instance, in terms of vaccination coverage we know how many people are actually vaccinated in each age group,” Ammon said, adding that it was very difficult for other vaccines. 

Both supported the possibility that the Covidtracker website could be used as a tool to improve future vaccination campaigns. According to Tüzel, digital health could play an increased role in “the game of vaccination” – for example, sending reminder notifications to its users to get vaccinated.

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“Vaccination rates are very low for other examples, such as the flu vaccine. Now the task is to translate this for the 40 other vaccines,” Ammon said. 

“The vaccination data register would be so valuable and useful. It is necessary to bring vaccination to people,” Tüzel agreed.

Vaccine trackers could have accelerated vaccination campaigns in Europe, where, as of 9 January, almost 70% of Europeans had completed their vaccination schedule. 

Taking the example of the digital COVID certificate, Ammon said it was a major step, “not necessarily for travelling but also for people to know what their health status in terms of vaccination is.”

Digital health also on Brussels’ agenda

In Brussels, health data is also at the heart of the political agenda. Sandra Gallina, the Commission’s director general for health, met with ministers on Wednesday (2 February) to establish ethical rules for digital health. 

During the meeting, organised under the French EU Presidency, French Health Minister Olivier Véran presented a series of measures to regulate the health data of European citizens.

These measures were validated in advance by the E-Health Network, created by the European directive on cross-border care. The COVID-19 digital certificate is one of the concrete examples of this body, which aims to digitise health data in Europe.

At the end of the informal meeting, Gallina said that the European Health Data Space marked “a new era” that would “strengthen people’s rights over their health data” and “support the re-use of health data in a safe and trusted way”.

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