Kyiv, 24 October 2016 – Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko, representatives of the Ukrainian Government and the Presidential Administration have expressed their commitment to restore the routine immunization programme in Ukraine.
Speaking at a high-level roundtable on immunization, organized by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and UNICEF on the occasion of World Polio Day, Vice Prime Minister Rozenko said: “Evidence-based medicine confirms the effectiveness of vaccines to prevent diseases such as polio, tetanus or whooping cough. Increasing the rates of immunization coverage is an important task and a priority of the government and a matter of national security.”
Ukraine currently has the lowest routine immunization rates in the world. According to the Ministry of Health data, only 30 percent of children in Ukraine were fully immunized against measles, only 10 percent against hepatitis B, and only 3 percent against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, as of August 2016. Moreover, only 44 percent of children under 18 months of age were fully immunized against polio.
Shortage of vaccine supplies has been one of the main reasons behind the critically low immunization rates in the past years. To address this, at the request of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, UNICEF has procured a number of high quality certified vaccines to protect children against dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, namely tuberculosis (BCG), measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), tetanus and diphtheria vaccine for adults (Td), paediatric diphtheria and tetanus (DT), rabies, and bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV). The vaccines are now available in health facilities across the country.
“This time last year, Ukraine was dealing with a polio outbreak. The comprehensive outbreak response was successfully implemented with the help of international partners, but this success is still fragile”, said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. “With such low routine immunization coverage, Ukraine is still at risk of outbreaks of long-forgotten diseases. Today, with millions of doses of vaccines available across the country, there is no reason to delay vaccination. Being vaccinated is fundamental to guarantee child’s right to health and now more than ever, it is important for Ukraine to put in place a strong and effective immunization programme,” she added.
Speaking at the event, Professor David Salisbury, Chairman of the European Regional Certification Commission for Poliomyelitis Eradication said: “The polio cases in 2015 in Ukraine happened as a direct consequence of failings in the provision of vaccines for children. Efforts have been made to redress these problems but there is still more that needs to be done to give the children of Ukraine protection from vaccine preventable diseases. I am greatly encouraged by the commitments that have been made today and I look forward to being able to remove Ukraine from our list of polio high-risk countries.”
Representatives of the Governments of Canada and the United States of America, who provided funding for the polio outbreak response last year, reaffirmed their support for restoring the routine immunization programme in Ukraine.
“Canada worked hard last year with Ukraine’s Health Ministry to get nationwide polio vaccination restarted. We are grateful to the thousands of doctors who helped vaccinate millions of children. This year, we are happy to see that the UN has made more vaccines available. But still, far too many children are not routinely fully vaccinated. I urge Ukrainian parents to take advantage of these free vaccines and protect their children from completely unnecessary illnesses,” said H.E. Roman Waschuk, Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine, speaking at the Roundtable today.
"Ukraine must continue to build on the great progress that has been made globally to eradicate polio," explained USAID Ukraine Director Susan Fritz. "These positive developments will only have the necessary impact if there is strong and visible political support from leadership at all levels of the Ukrainian Government."
“Myths about vaccination that have been spread in recent years are not rooted in evidence-based medicine. As a result, Ukraine has been dealing with cases of diseases that have been long-forgotten in the rest of the world. It is important that the Prime Minister of Ukraine, the Government and our international partners recognize the problem and are willing to work together with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to resolve it. Increasing vaccination coverage rates in the country is our priority. This is not only a question of health and life of the citizens of Ukraine. This is a national security issue,” said Dr Ulana Suprun, Acting Minister of Health of Ukraine. “Necessary vaccines are available in all regions of the country. I appeal to all citizens who care about their life and health: get vaccinated and vaccinate your children,” added Dr Suprun.
For more information, journalists should contact Iuliia Poberezhna at UNICEF Ukraine (email@example.com; +380 50 388 29 51) or Victoria Savchuk at the Ministry of Health of Ukraine (firstname.lastname@example.org; +380 93 437 89 62).