“Tête-à-Tête with the Epidemic”: Ukraine Only Has Enough Vaccines Against Measles for Another Week

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



Stocks of vaccines against measles in Ukraine will be enough until February 17th-19th, stated the representative of the Ukrainian Ministry of Healthcare. Kiev isn’t able to stop the epidemic: since the beginning of the year the illness was diagnosed in 3,500 people. Brussels is concerned by the situation, after all, the outbreak of measles
originating from Ukraine” was already detected and recorded in the EU. In order to not allow the virus to spread, UNICEF intends to help the country with vaccines. But, as doctors say, international deliveries may not be enough. The material of RT concerns the development of the epidemiological situation.

Ukraine has been fighting against the measles epidemic since last year. According to the Ministry of Healthcare, in 2016 there were 78 cases in the country, in 2017 — already about 3,000, in 2018 — 3,500 were registered so far.

“Since the beginning of year four persons died of complications of measles: two children and two adults,” the Director of the Center for public health of the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine Vladimir Kurpita stated at the beginning of February, 2018.

The main reason for the sharp growth of incidence is the low level of vaccination of the population, recognised the Ministry of Healthcare. According to the ministry, vaccination against measles was done by only 45.5% of Ukrainians, whereas normally this indicator should reach 95%.

Every week in Ukraine about 74,000 vaccines are used, claims Kurpita. Stocks at the end of January totalled about 300,000 doses, which will last until February 17th-19th. The next delivery is scheduled only in April of this year.

Vaccinations from UNICEF

However, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) intervened in the situation. According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Healthcare, the fund will partially provide the country with measles vaccines.

“Thanks to their proven international expertise in the sphere of procurement, UNICEF was able to get 1,097,600 additional doses of the vaccine for Ukraine,” it is said in the message of the ministry.

The first batch — 220,000 doses of the vaccine — will arrive in Ukraine at the end of February, about 800,000 more — at the end of March, and the remaining 77,000 doses — at the end of May. In the second half of 2018 UNICEF will deliver to Ukraine about 900,000 more doses for measles, parotitis, and rubella.

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According to experts, the organisation was forced to intervene as the Ukrainian government isn’t capable of solving the problem.

“Ukraine is on the verge of a default. However, should there be a need money for the purchase of vaccines could be found. But since nothing was done, it was necessary to work with an international organisation. This entire situation threatens neighbors, including EU countries, and it is precisely for this reason that UNICEF found it necessary to intervene. The fund always makes purchases for third world countries: for some they buy food, for others — vaccines,” said the Director of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting Rostislav Ishchenko in an interview to RT.

The virus from Ukraine has already entered the EU. As was reported by the Polish “Radio Olsztyn” publication, measles was diagnosed in five Ukrainian citizens working in Poland at a meat-processing plant in Morliny.

“The European Union is concerned by the sharp growth of incidence, because Ukrainians work and study practically in all EU countries. For example, Hungary provides humanitarian aid to Transcarpathia and provided 8,000 vaccines free of charge”,  said a source in the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine to RT.

Thus, the Ukrainian side considers that the virus came to the country from the EU. As the acting head of the Ministry of Healthcare Ulana Suprun stated earlier, measles entered Ukraine from Romania.

“A deficit cannot be avoided”

Despite the promised help panic reigns among the population, said a doctor at one of the hospitals of Odessa to RT.

“The statements of doctors and stories in the media about deaths among children and adults resulted in an increased demand for vaccines. There haven’t been enough in policlinics since the middle of January. Only a few are able to afford to pay 500 UAH ($18) for the medicine, whereas most people ring round policlinics and are ready to go to another city for a vaccination,” commented the interlocutor of RT on the situation.

A similar situation is observed practically in all regions of western Ukraine, according to the source of RT in the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine, the directors of policlinics nearly weekly demand to provide them with additional doses of the medicine.

“A huge queue of persons interested in vaccinating their children already formed,” reported the chief doctor of the children’s policlinic in Uzhgorod to RT.

The vaccination of the adult population is carried out on a paid basis.

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According to the Center for Public Health of the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine, on January 25th, 2018, the vaccine was received by 70% of children who at the time passed through the first step of immunisation (inoculation is done for 1 year), and also 76% of children who didn’t have a booster on time.

“All hope is on timely deliveries from the fund. But even in this case, it won’t be possible to avoid a deficit, because 220,000 doses will be enough only for three weeks. And what to do then? Only those who have money will win, because vaccinations in private clinics will run out last of all,” said the source in Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine to RT.

The main problem is that in Ukraine vaccines aren’t produced, wrote the head of the committee of the Verkhovna Rada concerning healthcare Olga Bogomolets on her page on Facebook.

“Considering that some vaccines are produced for one and a half years, it won’t be possible to cover all the available demand in an emergency situation. There is no doubt that in such a situation Ukraine will have access to vaccines last of all and will remain at the mercy of fate, tete a tete with the epidemic. But Ukraine has huge problems with deliveries of vaccines of foreign production even when the epidemiological situation is stable. Global demand is growing, and today they arrive in Ukraine extremely inadequately, and the interval between payment and deliveries can reach two years. As a result – the outbreak of measles and the critical non-vaccination of the population against poliomyelitis, diphtheria, and other extremely dangerous diseases,” considers Bogomolets.

Ukrainian enterprises stopped producing vaccines since 2013, when the international GMP standards (requirements for the production and quality control of medicines) were introduced in the country. Some enterprises weren’t able to convert production and were forced to close.

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This year, Ukraine is experiencing not only an epidemic of measles, but also hepatitis A, which the Russians already warned about via Roskomnadzor. Moreover, the probability of diphtheria spreading is high.

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