Kyiv, December 23, 2015. The next year will be a turning point in providing vaccines and medicine. Despite the manipulations on polio vaccination, expectations for vaccination in Ukraine have increased. According to the UNICEF studies, at the beginning of the year 35-40 percent of parents were willing to vaccinate their children. Now this figure has gone up to 70 percent. This was reported by Deputy Minister of Healthcare Ihor Perehinets at a roundtable at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “If there is enough vaccine, this figure will increased dramatically up to 95 percent next year,” said the Deputy Minister.
Valeriy Sushkevich, Presidential Commissioner for the Rights of Disabled Persons, who himself fell ill with this disease at the age of 3, sees no way other than vaccination to stop the current outbreak. However, he is convinced that the country itself gradually created the problem as even 2012 there was a shortage of polio vaccine. And that was just on the eve of the football championship EURO2012 in Ukraine, which could trigger an epidemic because of the massive arrival of tourists. Valeriy Sushkevich gave an example from his childhood, when after the Festival of Youth and Students in 1957, a polio epidemic reached our country. “Out of 20 percent of children in Kyiv region who fell ill with the disease, 40 percent were paralyzed due to polio, and 10 percent – died,” he remembered. He emphasized that the importance of vaccination should not be ignored. The Presidential Commissioner added that this year, vaccine has been delivered to Ukraine in May, but it has not been distributed to regions until the outbreak in September.
Ihor Perehinets agreed that in previous years this sphere and general polio risk assessment were really neglected. Just now Ukraine managed to get a vaccine against this disease. According to him, within the first round of immunization the vaccination coverage has reached 65 percent of kids, in the second round – 70 percent, if necessary, it may reach 95 percent. “Assuming that at least one child received at least one dose of polio, now this figure may reach 80 percent,” said the Deputy Minister. In addition, the third round of vaccination still remains, which will cover children up to 10 years. “I am confident that by the end of January the population immunity will be acquired at a sufficient level required for stopping the circulation of vaccine-related viruses that caused the outbreak in Transcarpathia, so that we can safely say that there will be no cases of polio,” said the Deputy Minister.
Victoria Zadorozhna, Director of the L.V. Gromashevsky Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases Institute, said that it was just vaccination that stopped an epidemic in the fifties. Moreover, the similar vaccine of French origin was also used in the nineties at the time of an epidemic. The acquired status should have been supported. “If constant vaccination coverage of children of a certain age exceeded 95 percent, only then Ukraine would maintain its status of country free of polio,” explained Ms. Zadorozhna. Panelists said that today Ukraine has lost the status of “polio free country” and at the same time the entire European region has lost it. As of today, wild polio epidemic can be found only in two countries of the world – Pakistan and Afghanistan, said Olga Izhyk, World Health Organisation Representative in Ukraine. The fact that African countries eradicated polio is a progress. That is why the whole world is watching closely how Ukraine tries to stop the outbreak that was recorded in early September. “The national vaccination campaign, which continues today, aims at vaccinating at least 95 percent of children to ensure against the polio outbreak and virus transmission,” she said. At the same time, in accordance with the international requirements, the nationwide vaccination should be conducted in three rounds with use of Oral Polio Vaccine, i.e drops. Olga Izhyk explained that the vaccine in the form of injection can safeguard a child against the disease, but in this case the child itself can be a carrier of the disease and can pose a risk to others.
Anastasia Barzilovich, pediatrician, head of the pediatric department of the clinic “Charm”, tried to dispel the myths that discourage parents to vaccinate children. She recognizes that “usually vaccine is not the holy water.” According to Anastasia Barzilovich, a “live” polio vaccine can cause vaccine-associated diseases, but this happens extremely rarely. “They may occur in a population as 1-1,5 cases per 1-2 millions; it is very little,” explained the doctor. She added that according to statistics, if a child who receives a “live polio”, was vaccinated with inactivated vaccine before, there is no risk of vaccine-related polio at all. “And after two inactivated vaccines, there were no cases of vaccine-related polio,” said Anastasia Barzilovich. Thus, this system of vaccination is safe, said the pediatrician. In other words, inactivated vaccine should be a prelude to the use of “live” vaccine and its necessary component, emphasized Valeriy Sushkevich, and – this is stated in the relevant orders of the Ministry. “The period between the use of inactivated and “live” vaccines should be at least 1 – 2 months,” stressed the Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for the Rights of Disabled Persons. However, he added that now for some reason this period is only 14 days.
Serhiy Zavadsky, chairman of the National Committee of Ukraine “POLIO PLUS” (Rotary International), emphasized the global aspect of disease eradication. Now the world is close to eradication of the disease. Rotary International has been raising funds for providing Ukraine with vaccines and for ensuring comprehensive vaccination of children in order not to waste all previous efforts. “That is why victory over the polio outbreak in Ukraine is important not only for us but for the whole world,” said Mr. Zavadsky. In his opinion, for different reasons people often try to cash in on this issue, but they should take it seriously. According to Oleksandra Ustinova, representative of the Center for Combating Corruption, this issue is directly connected with funding. According to her, the function of vaccine purchasing was transferred to international companies. It is clear that there will be efforts to discredit this (for example, children fall ill and die after vaccination). “When we always bought Russia’s vaccines, but not when they were supplied by UNICEF as humanitarian aid, when politicians who provided a crime-sponsored cover earned money on it, no one died. Once humanitarian aid is supplied or international organizations begin to purchase, then children immediately begin to ‘die’” said Oleksandra Ustinova.
According to Fedir Lapiy, chief children’s immunologist of Kyiv Health Department, the issue of vaccination is a joint responsibility of all parties – doctors, journalists and authorities. And besides, it is the issue of national security, convinced Fedir Lapiy. He urged the senior management of the country to participate in these events and express its position on vaccination. “Where is the President’s position? Where is the position of National Security and Defense Council? It is the issue of national security of Ukraine,” said the chief children’s immunologist of Kyiv. Deputy chief neurosurgeon of Kyiv Andriy Huk pointed out the absence of a common position of the executive, legislative authorities and the media. According to him, the truth is “somewhere in between”. “There is no uniform policy of the state on the prevention and treatment of widely-spread diseases,” he thinks. Moreover, he said that there is no law on the principles of state policy in the field of health. “Everything looks like a patchwork – a patch is here, a patch is there.” noted Andriy Huk.