30 November 2015 – The Ministry of Health of Ukraine announced the start of the second round of a polio vaccination campaign to protect children against paralysis in the country.

With UNICEF and WHO support, the nationwide polio campaign is conducted in three rounds to vaccinate children with oral polio vaccine (OPV) to stop the circulation of the polio virus. During the second round, children aged 2 months to 6 years will be immunized. In all, a total of 4.7 million children should be immunized against polio during the nationwide campaign. Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine Ihor Perehinets stated that during the first round 65 per cent of children were vaccinated. «The circulation of the polio virus in Ukraine should be stopped as a result of three rounds of vaccination campaign. To achieve that, we need to vaccinate 95 per cent of children, which requires additional efforts. The Ministry of Health conducted the teleconference with doctors not only at the regions, but also those working in rayons level to enable health workers clarify all necessary information. All rayons have reported that they are ready to conduct II round of vaccination against polio”, - added the Deputy Minister.

Deputy Minister of Health of Ukraine Ihor Perehinets stated that during the first round 65 per cent of children were vaccinated. «The circulation of the polio virus in Ukraine should be stopped as a result of three rounds of vaccination campaign. To achieve that, we need to vaccinate 95 per cent of children, which requires additional efforts. The Ministry of Health conducted the teleconference with doctors not only at the regions, but also those working in rayons level to enable health workers clarify all necessary information. All rayons have reported that they are ready to conduct II round of vaccination against polio”, - added the Deputy Minister.

According to Deputy Head of the Health Parliament Committee Iryna Sysoyenko, vaccination is an issue of national security of Ukraine and it is particularly urgent now. «We have quite high rates of child mortality, but it is not acceptable to manipulate, speculate and link it to vaccination. The information flow created during the outbreak of infectious diseases is very important since vaccination is the only way to protect significant number of children from these diseases in Ukraine», - she added.

WHO Representative in Ukraine Dorit Nitzan called on parents to get their children vaccinated in II round, even if they missed I round. At least three doses of polio vaccine are necessary to protect children. «WHO congratulates Kharkiv, Khmelnitskiy and Kirovograd regions for reaching the highest vaccination coverage rates among all regions of Ukraine. The results of the first round prove that most of Ukrainian parents want to protect their children from this disease.” “Due to the polio outbreak, Ukraine is in the list of country, travelling to which travellers have been advised to get polio vaccination. The international community is concerned with the outbreak, thus WHO recommends to announce a national public health emergency in Ukraine,” explained WHO Representative Dorit Nitzan.

UNICEF Representative in Ukraine Giovanna Barberis said that 4.4 million doses of OPV vaccine had been already delivered to the regions. “There is a sufficient supply for II round. Thanking to the EU support, UNICEF has procured the necessary quantity of polio vaccine to cover III round of vaccination campaign. It will arrive to Ukraine in December. “

Giovanna Barberis also reminded that OPV has reduced the global incidence of polio by 99 per cent since 1988. More than 10 billion doses of OPV have been given to more than 2.5 billion children in the past ten years, only. “OPV vaccine is extremely safe and effective in protecting children against lifelong polio paralysis. We call on parents to get your children vaccinated and protect them,” she added.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Health declared a polio outbreak on 1 September with two confirmed cases, the first time in 19 years. Neither of the infected children, aged 10 months and 4 years, had been vaccinated against the disease.

Routine immunization coverage rates in Ukraine have fallen dramatically in the past five years. This year, the level of immunization against polio among children under 12 months dropped further to 14 per cent. This outbreak, combined with the low level of vaccination rates in Ukraine, risks children’s health and well-being nationwide and threaten Europe’s polio-free status.

The outbreak can be rapidly stopped through nationwide immunization of children for at least three rounds with oral polio vaccine, according to guidelines from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative*.

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*The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide. See more at: http://www.polioeradication.org/AboutUs.aspx#sthash.kNsxDaeL.dpuf

For further information, please contact:

Veronika Vashchenko, UNICEF Kyiv, +38 044 254 2439, vvashchenko@unicef.org

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF in Ukraine and its work visit: www.unicef.org/ukraine. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

With UNICEF and WHO support, the nationwide polio campaign is conducted in three rounds to vaccinate children with oral polio vaccine (OPV) to stop the circulation of the polio virus. During the second round, children aged 2 months to 6 years will be immunized. In all, a total of 4.7 million children should be immunized against polio during the nationwide campaign.