Polio vaccine for all children aged under 10 in Ukraine

WHO/Alex Shpigunov

The third round of Ukraine’s polio immunization campaign began on 25 January 2016, and targets all children aged under 10.

WHO urges parents in Ukraine to ensure that children under 10 years of age get their dose of polio vaccine during the third round of the current polio vaccination campaign. Between 25 January and 5 February 2016, children can receive the polio vaccine at a local clinic, at school or in kindergarten. This is part of the country's ongoing response to the polio outbreak.

"Polio remains a threat in Ukraine until every susceptible child is fully immunized." says Dennis King, WHO Ukraine Polio Outbreak Manager. "By vaccinating all children under 10 in this final round, we can fully protect them from this crippling disease".

Children under 10 years of age should be vaccinated. 

In this round, all children under the age of 10 must receive a dose of vaccine. This will provide an extra layer of protection to them as individuals and to the community.

It is also important that all children under the age of 6 who were vaccinated in the first two rounds come back for their third dose. Multiple doses are the only way to ensure that they are fully protected from polio.

Mild illness is not a reason for delaying polio vaccination.

Children with mild illness, such as a cough or cold and/or fever below 38.5 °C, should be vaccinated against polio.

"With an outbreak of polio currently affecting Ukraine, it is important that children are fully immunized against it", continues Dennis King. "Coughing or sneezing or having a cold without high fever is not a reason to delay polio vaccination".

The only reason for postponing vaccination is a high fever, above 38.5 °C, as high fever can reduce the body's immune response to the vaccine, diminishing its efficacy. The parents of children with fever > 38.5 °C should consult a doctor to determine the severity of the child's condition and should make an appointment for the child to be vaccinated as soon as he or she is in good health.

Seasonal influenza in Ukraine

During the influenza season, up to 20% of the population may be infected, depending on which viruses are circulating. Currently, the majority of influenza viruses circulating in Ukraine are A(H1N1). A(H1N1) caused a flu pandemic in 2009 and is now a seasonal human flu virus.

Since its emergence in 2009, A(H1N1) has occasionally caused severe disease in otherwise healthy, young adults, whereas the A(H3N2) virus is more likely to affect elderly people. Ukraine, where A(H1N1) virus is dominant, can expect a limited number of cases but increased numbers of cases of severe disease and deaths in young, otherwise healthy adults, including pregnant women.

Ukraine's polio outbreak

On 1 September 2015, Ukraine's Minister of Health announced that polio had been identified as the cause of paralysis in 2 children, aged 10 months and 4 years. The children live in Zakarpatska oblast in south-western Ukraine. So far, no additional cases have been detected, but millions of under-immunized children in the country are at acute risk.

Financial support for the outbreak response was provided by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). 4.5 million doses of polio vaccine were procured by UNICEF for the third round of the vaccination campaign.