Vaccination, also known as inoculation, is an important means of protecting people against serious infectious diseases. A vaccine contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism. It ‘trains’ the immune system to ward off the actual pathogen. The National Vaccination Programme is administered by the government to protect all children in the Netherlands against certain dangerous, sometimes life-threatening, infectious diseases.
In 2009, vaccination against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer, was added to the National Vaccination Programme. There is also a National Influenza Prevention Programme. In October or November each year, approximately 3.7 million people aged over 60 or in one of the high-risk groups are offered a ‘flu jab’. In addition to these national programmes, other types of vaccination are made available to high-risk groups.
RIVM coordinates and provides public information about the National Vaccination Programme and the National Influenza Prevention Programme. We also produce guidelines for the various vaccinations. We research and evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccination programmes. RIVM controls the quality of the vaccines themselves, both before and after registration. We perform research into existing vaccines and help to develop new ones, which are then produced by external manufacturers.
The World Health Organization has established a global influenza monitoring network, of which RIVM is a member. The network identifies where outbreaks occur and what strain of influenza virus is involved. This information can then be used to adapt the vaccines.
RIVM purchases and distributes vaccines under the direct authority of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS). We also direct and coordinate the vaccination programmes under instructions from the ministry.