Polio, and no vaccine in Ukraine

Mothers and their children waiting in a clinic, Kiev. Screen shot from video at source

September 25,2015

October 5, 2015
Translated from Russian by Tom Winter

In Ukrainian clinics the fridge is empty. 
Polio vaccine has run out. Mothers are at a loss. “I went to our doctor, asked for a polio shot, but she said ‘There is a problem. We’re out of the vaccine.’ I’m scared that there is no vaccine,” – Ivanna Lakatos, a mother.

The deficit has arisen due to the fact that Kiev refused to buy Russian medicines. The country has decided that Moscow vaccines, which for many years successfully defended the health of Ukrainians, today do not meet European standards. And Kiev can not afford western pharmaceuticals: vaccines from the west are about 17 times more expensive.

Last year, Ukraine protected only half of the children under one against polio, this year, 14 percent. But doctors call even this figure exaggerated. Officials say it’s all because the parents themselves refuse shots for their sons and daughters. In reality the hold-up of progress is the units: In the Ukrainian clinics they are waiting on the vaccine.

The latest news from Transcarpathia [Zakarpattia Oblast, westernmost part of Ukraine –tr] has heightened parental concerns. There, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, they have confirmed two cases of polio last month, for the first time in 9 years. 

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Symptoms of the terrible disease showed up in a four-year child and 10-month-old baby. Representatives of the World Health Organization called the situation critical. “Of 200 children infected, only one or two end up paralyzed. Just two – paralyzed. This is a disaster. Behind these two are 400 children that live with the virus. And they are in contact with other children. Thousands of children are already polio carriers,” says Dr Dorit Nitzan, head of WHO in Ukraine.

In the Transcarpathian region, WHO is denying this statement. They say the children suffer an entirely different disease. Whatever the cause, the shortage of vaccines increases the likelihood of an epidemic in Ukraine. But experts suspect that in the event the disease is detected, doctors will try to keep it quiet. 

Here is what a famous Ukrainian doctor stated in a television broadcast. “We do not know the truth. You can not even imagine how many children are at risk. We have a catastrophic problem,” said Dr. Yevgeny Komarovsky, a pediatrician.

In the Ukrainian warehouses there are now 600 thousand doses of vaccine against polio – the humanitarian aid of UNICEF. [funded by the Government of Canada in May –tr]
However, officials are hesitant to use them: the vaccine got thawed out in transit and was then refrozen. By European standards the drug is useable, but on the instructions of Ukrainian Ministry of Health – the substance is spoiled. Officials are seeking a compromise.

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