WHO, UNICEF and CDC regret the Government of Ukraine’s decision to suspend the National Measles and Rubella Vaccination Campaign
Copenhagen, Kyiv, 20 May 2008
WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regret the suspension of the national measles and rubella vaccination campaign. The decision will have long-term implications not only for the measles and rubella campaign but for routine immunization coverage, resulting in the potential for outbreaks of other infectious diseases.
Measles and rubella are highly contagious infections and can lead to severe complications, birth defects and death. In 2005–2006, Ukraine experienced large outbreaks of measles, infecting over 50 000 young people accounting for 80% of measles cases in Europe. Over 20 000 young Ukrainians contract rubella annually and a large outbreak of over 100 000 cases occurred in 2002, resulting in serious birth defects.
WHO, UNICEF and CDC warn that Ukraine, without a campaign, will again experience outbreaks. The global health partners urge the Government to reaffirm its commitment to the WHO strategy to eliminate measles and rubella in Europe by 2010.
The Government’s decision to suspend the vaccination campaign was in response to the recent tragic death of a 17-year-old boy in Kramatorsk. Although a special commission of the Ministry of Health is still investigating the case, the Minister of Health stated that preliminary results provide no evidence of vaccination causing this unfortunate death. WHO, UNICEF and CDC regret that the decision to suspend the campaign and withdraw vaccines from use was made prior to the receipt of the official results of the investigation.
WHO, UNICEF and CDC reiterate that the measles and rubella vaccine used in Ukraine is pre-qualified by WHO and produced in accordance with the highest international standards by the Serum Institute of India, the largest producer of measles and rubella vaccine globally. Two out of three children in the world are immunized against measles with vaccine from this manufacturer. This measles–rubella vaccine has an excellent track record and has been successfully used in countries across Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), immunizing over 34 million young people. The rubella vaccine from the same manufacturer has been used in Ukraine since 2002, successfully vaccinating over 1.3 million people.
The global partners urge the Government to complete and make public its investigation into the boy’s death in order to restore public trust in immunization. Immunization is an important public health intervention that ensures the fundamental human right to survival and protection from infectious diseases. WHO, UNICEF and CDC would like to reassure the Government of Ukraine and the citizens of Ukraine of their full support in managing this situation, and strongly encourage health officials to handle this difficult situation in a transparent manner, so as to best serve the interests of the health of Ukrainian people.
For further information please contact:
Olga Fradkina, WHO Country Office, Ukraine
Tel.: +38 044 425 88 28