Kyiv, September 4, 2015. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine (MOH) held a meeting of the Coordination working group on the support polio-free status of Ukraine. The MOH together with colleagues from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF began to develop an action plan to stop the virus spread. According to the plan the Ministry will appoint the Response Staff, obtaining the second batch of polyvalent vaccine as humanitarian aid, strengthening epidemiological surveillance activities through the Health Inspection Service laboratories, sending the vaccine to the regions and developing recommendations both for the national and regional institutions and for patients – children and parents. This was reported by Ihor Perehinets, Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine and international experts from the WHO and UNICEF during a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
“The situation is currently in a phase of active planning and is fully under control,” assured Ihor Perehinets. He said that for almost two years international partners actively warned Ukraine about the threat of disease outbreak due to low vaccination coverage. The Ministry of Health started preparing for vaccination program as early as in spring. In May we received the first batch of the polyvalent vaccine from the WHO with the assistance of the Government of Canada. Taking into consideration this preparation, the MOH has already some experience, but changes the vaccination campaign nature from a preventive one to “outbreak response”. Detailed vaccination plan is currently under development.
Shahin Huseynov, immunization expert of the WHO European Office, said that the campaign provides for vaccination of all children under six years, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated before. “This is a very rare case,” he stressed. In the last 15 years there were only 26 outbreaks of this rare type of vaccine-derived poliovirus and 756 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks as a whole. The last outbreak was recorded in Madagascar, and now we have two cases in Ukraine,” said Shahin Huseynov. He stressed that under inadequate sanitary-hygienic conditions both children and adults who have not been vaccinated are at risk. Dragoslav Popovich, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, explained that due to the fact that oral polio vaccine has been used in Ukraine for a long period and most adults have been vaccinated, they are not at risk. “Reduction of vaccination in Ukraine has been observed since 2008. That is why it is necessary to immunize children born during the last eight years,” he said.
Giovanna Barbaris, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, emphasized that it is extremely important to inform people about what polio is, and what the threat of vaccine-derived poliovirus is. “Only 27% of mothers understand that poliovirus can cause paralysis, she said. – The vaccination campaign must be accompanied by an appropriate information campaign.”
Ihor Perehinets pointed out that there are sixty thousand doses of vaccine in the regions of Ukraine, of which about two thousand – in Zakarpatska region. There are 600000 doses of inactivated polio vaccine and 1 million 100 thousand doses of oral polio vaccine in the warehouses. They will be distributed and sent to the regions over the next 1 – 1.5 weeks. MOH is currently receiving the next batch of humanitarian polio vaccine, then Ukraine will have 3 million 700 thousand doses of oral polio vaccine and 1 million. 100 thousand doses of inactivated polio vaccine. “Vaccination will be carried out by state funds and despite the gravity of the situation, without any coercion,” assured the Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine.
It should be recalled that outbreak of poliomyelitis caused by circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type I was recorded in Zakarpatska region. Now a 10-month-old baby and a four-year-old boy are beginning to recover. They live in different towns, but in both cases genetic similarity of the pathogen has been revealed, confirming active circulation of vaccine-derived poliovirus in the area.