To avoid another polio outbreak, Ukrainians should be vaccinated in line with international standard – Ministry of Healthcare, NGOs

Now that the ministry can provide enough vaccine, next steps should be distribution and an awareness campaign on polio vaccine as many parents doubt its efficiency.

Kyiv, 26 of September, 2016. To avoid polio outbreak in Ukraine, it is necessary that 90-95 percent of population be vaccinated. As of today, the required amount of polio vaccine doses have already been delivered to Ukraine, so everything depends on understanding and willingness of the parents, stated the Ministry of Healthcare (MOH) and civil activists at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “We want to put it very clear for the parents: the outbreak that happened last year must be completely eliminated. In order to do it, we need to reach the international standards of vaccination coverage – 90 percent, or, preferably, 95 per cent,” said Sergiy Platov, Head of Programs & Projects Department at the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine. “I call upon the parents to take care of their children and to vaccinate them to protect them from this dangerous virus,” stressed Oksana Syvak, Deputy Minister of Healthcare on European integration affairs.

The healthcare officials say that Ukraine has already received the required amount of vaccine against poliovirus. “The UNICEF has procured 2 billion 755 thousands of polio vaccine doses for us. This is sufficient  to vaccinate all the children, those, who has to receive the vaccine according to vaccination schedule as well as those who did not get the necessary amount of vaccine doses on time,” noted Sergiy Platov. “In September, we received the first batch of bivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV) in the amount of 1 billion 378 doses. By Friday, it will be delivered to the regions,” elaborated Oksana Syvak. Sergiy Platov noted that the second batch will be supplied later. He added that there are enough of all types of polio vaccine in the country, including inactivated polio vaccine.

The ministry and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) addressed to the media calling on them to be objective and careful when covering the issue of vaccination. “According to UNICEF, nearly 40 percent of parents take into consideration information from the media when making up their mind on child vaccination. So we call on you to deliver information correctly,” said Nataliya Rybachyk, member of the Board of NGO “Parents for vaccination”. Sergiy Platov noted that a tremendous decrease in vaccination coverage in 2008 – 2015 was to a large extent caused by multiple stories in the media about children who had fallen ill or died, allegedly as a result of vaccination, about the poor quality of the vaccine etc. “In 2015, the vaccination coverage of Ukrainian children was only at the level of 18.6 percent instead of the required 60-63 percent. This is the reason why polio outbreak became possible,” stressed Oksana Syvak. The experts mentioned that nowadays there are only two polio endemic countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, recently the situation has worsened on Nigeria. Europe was believed to be polio-free, that’s why the two cases registered in Zakarpattya in the west of Ukraine last year were alarming.

Sergiy Platov and Olga Yalovenko, Deputy Director of the national committee, Polio Plus in Ukraine, explained that replacement of trivalent OPV by bivalent OPV has nothing to do with shadow manipulations.  “This is a planned action as a part of global initiative that happened in April 2016 in all countries of the world,’” explained Olga Yakovenko. “As soon as this strategy about the use of bivalent vaccine had been adopted, all the trivalent OPV in Ukraine was utilized. Nobody gave that vaccine to the children to get rid of it. Everything was done according to the plan,” stressed Sergiy Platov.

Mr. Platov said that children who were vaccinated in the framework of three rounds of anti-polio campaign last year have to be vaccinated again, in compliance with the vaccination schedule. “These rounds of vaccination were additional, no one cancelled further vaccination, he said. Olga Yalovenko mentioned that according to the vaccination calendar a child has to receive 2 doses of IPV, then one dose of OPV and three additional doses later. “OPV creates population immunity. This is the only way to stop the virus from spreading, because IPV creates immunity only for the person who got it. To prevent the outbreak, we need to create common immunity,” she emphasized. The adults should be vaccinated as well once every 10 years.

Sergiy Platov added that at present all the vaccines included into the vaccination schedule have already been delivered to Ukraine. An additional batch of vaccine against measles, parotitis and rubella will be delivered later. He reminded that the Ministry is responsible for vaccines delivery to the regions, but further delivery and distribution is ensured by the regional and local authorities. Therefore, all the complaints on the absence of vaccines in the hospitals should be reported to the local authorities. “If you have reported the problem but it was not solved, let us know and we will try to fix it,” added Mr. Platov.