BRUSSELS, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Mandatory vaccination is to remain the choice of individual member states for now, European Commissioner for Health Stella Kyriakides said on Tuesday.
Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the European Union's health ministers, Kyriakides said that any discussion on compulsory vaccination should not shift the focus from the need to continue vaccinating people "as quickly as possible."
"We must urgently use vaccines to close the immunization gap," she said. "We need to get as many EU citizens fully vaccinated as quickly as possible, protect more people against the most serious consequences of the virus as well as the spread of new variants. There are still six member states that have an overall vaccination rate below 55 percent."
However, Kyriakides did not give a clear reply when asked whether the health ministers had discussed compulsory vaccination.
"We have made it clear from the beginning of our work on the European vaccine strategy that vaccination in general, and notably decisions on mandatory vaccination are a matter for the member states," said Kyriakides.
"Currently 77 percent of (European) adults and 66 percent of the (European) population in general is vaccinated. But this means that one third of the European population is not vaccinated. Vaccination is our best instrument to address this pandemic even though it is not the only one."
While it is important and appropriate that a discussion should start on mandatory vaccination, Kyriakides added, "I don't believe that this should take our focus away from the need to vaccinate as quickly as possible and the need to have non-pharmaceutical measures in place in order to address this virus."
"Even one member state with a low vaccination rate can have an impact on the health situation throughout the EU. Vaccination is a public health necessity," she emphasized.
The ministers also discussed the Pharmaceutical Strategy, Europe's Beating Cancer Plan, and the next steps on global health and pandemic preparedness.