High level UN delegation to Ukraine to discuss suspended measles and rubella campaign following the death of a 17-year old boy
Kiev, May 30 - A high level UN team urged the Ukraine Government today 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 was the cause of the death.
This was a key recommendation of a high level UN team in Kiev at the request of the Government of Ukraine to discuss the future of the suspended Measles and Rubella campaign.
WHO Euro Director Marc Danzon, and UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Maria Calivis, met with Vice Premier, Ivan Vasyunyk, Health Minister, Vasyl Knyazevych, and Deputy Security Council secretary, Boris Zaichyk, and other senior officials yesterday.
Describing the discussions as very fruitful, the UN directors and Government officials discussed a future plan of action to resume the M-R campaign and long-term public health measures to ensure that Ukrainians were protected from infectious disease.
WHO Director, Marc Danzon, said it was critical to avoid another M-R outbreak which 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 for 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.”
The UNICEF Regional Director, Maria Calivis, stated that the two organizations had assured the Government that the vaccine is safe and have offered their full support, including the best technical advice, to assist the Government. The public urgently needs evidence based information about 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 which 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,” Ms Calivis stated.
The UN directors warned that the M-R virus knew no boundaries, didn’t recognize nationalities, and would strike repeatedly at those people who were not vaccinated.
Mr. Danzon stated the second major UN recommendation was for the Government to take urgent steps to meet the WHO Euro strategy of eliminating M-R from Europe by 2010. The Government has an obligation to protect its citizens from disease.
Olga Fradkina, WHO Ukraine
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