No evidence to link death of young Ukrainian to vaccine

High-level United Nations delegation in Ukraine to discuss a campaign against measles and rubella that was suspended following the death of a 17-year-old boy

Official statement

Kyiv, 30 May 2008

A high-level United Nations team today urged the Government of Ukraine to release the findings of official inquiries into the death of a boy following immunization. The team stated that there was no evidence to suspect that the vaccine had caused his death.

This was a key recommendation of the team, which had come to Kyiv at the request of the Government of Ukraine to discuss the future of the suspended immunization campaign against measles and rubella.

Marc Danzon, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and Maria Calivis, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, met with Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Vasyunyk, Health Minister Vasyl Knyazevych, Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council Boris Zaichyk and other senior officials yesterday.

Describing the discussions as very fruitful, the United Nations team and Government officials discussed a plan of action to resume the measles–rubella campaign and long-term public health measures to ensure that Ukrainians were protected from infectious disease.

Marc Danzon said it was critical to avoid another measles–rubella outbreak like that which had claimed seven lives two years ago. Urgent steps needed to be taken, as another epidemic was likely before the winter of 2009: “The starting point is to release without further delay the conclusions of the four commissions investigating the issue, including the death, to reassure the public. From the expert advice that I have received, I am convinced that there is no link between the vaccine and the boy’s death.”

Maria Calivis stated that WHO and UNICEF had assured the Government that the vaccine is safe and offered their full support, including the best technical advice. The public urgently needed evidence-based information on the importance of immunization and the consequences to public health of not vaccinating all Ukrainians. This would require a major effort by the Government and partners to reassure the public that vaccination was safe and of benefit to the people of Ukraine.

“The vaccine to be used in Ukraine is the same vaccine that has been used to immunize 350 million children globally, including 30 million in eastern Europe and central Asia. We advised the Government that the vaccine has wiped out measles and rubella in the Americas, and no fatalities have been recorded as linked to the vaccine. This is a public health success story,” said Ms Calivis.

The United Nations team warned that the measles and rubella viruses knew no boundaries, did not recognize nationalities and would strike repeatedly at people who were not vaccinated.

Dr Danzon said that the United Nations team’s second major recommendation was for the Government to take urgent steps to follow the WHO Regional Office for Europe strategy to eliminate measles and rubella from the WHO European Region by 2010; the Government had an obligation to protect its citizens from disease.

For further information, please contact:

Anna Sukhodolska, UNICEF Ukraine
Tel.: +38 044 254 24 50
Web site:

Maryanna Zaichykova, UNICEF Ukraine
Tel.: +38 044 254 24 50
Web site:

Olga Fradkina, WHO Country Office, Ukraine
Tel.: +38 044 425 88 28