UNICEF delivers 340,000 doses of oral polio vaccine to Ukraine

30 January 2024
A baby is being examined by a doctor
UNICEF

KYIV, 30 January 2024 — The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with support from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has delivered 340,000 doses of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) to Ukraine, supporting the country’s National Immunization Programme and protecting children from a life-threatening disease.  

“It is crucial to protect children in Ukraine against vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Veera Mendonca, Deputy Representative of UNICEF Ukraine. “Children’s health in Ukraine, as everywhere, is of the utmost importance. We urge parents to protect their families. If you have come to vaccinate your child against polio, it is important get all other standard vaccinations as well. If the scheduled vaccination was missed, it is very important to catch up.”

Polio is a dangerous infectious disease that poses a serious threat to the nervous system potentially leading to paralysis or death. Paralysis can be lifelong, and many polio-affected people can be disabled by the disease. Poliovirus is most often spread through dirty hands, contaminated food, and water. Any unvaccinated person can get polio – however, children under the age of five are most vulnerable to the virus.

Medicine to treat polio does not exist. The disease, however, can be effectively prevented by the vaccine, given in line with the vaccination schedule.

“According to 2023 statistics, the level of coverage with polio vaccinations across various age groups exceeds 80 per cent – however, according to WHO recommendations, the level indicating the protection of the population from vaccine-preventable diseases should be at 95 per cent,” said Ihor Kuzin, Deputy Minister, Chief State Sanitary Doctor. “Despite the full-scale war, the Ministry of Health, in cooperation with international partners, ensures the uninterrupted availability of vaccines for routine vaccinations in all regions, so that newborns can receive all mandatory vaccinations in maternity wards, and children and adults can receive them when visiting a family doctor or a vaccination point. A full vaccination cycle provides lifelong immunity. Therefore, it is important to check your vaccination status and, in cases where some vaccinations were missed, contact a doctor and catch up.”

In 2023, UNICEF delivered 783,000 doses of OPV and almost 424,000 doses of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to protect Ukrainian children. Together with partners, UNICEF continues to support Ukraine’s National Immunization Programme to ensure children are immunized and protected against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

In addition, to ensure efficient storage of vaccines according to the highest global standards, UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and with the support of donors, carried out a large-scale upgrade of cold-chain equipment in health care facilities throughout the country. This includes USAID’s support to the healthcare facilities at the local level that received 1,400 refrigerators and 13,300 cold boxes/vaccine carriers with temperature monitoring devices. Crucially, this means that it is now possible to remotely monitor the temperature in the cold-chain equipment, which is an essential requirement for effective vaccine storage.

Background

UNICEF has been working with the World Bank, GAVI and USAID to update and enhance vaccine cold-chain infrastructure in Ukraine. Almost 6,600 vaccine refrigerators and freezers have been procured and delivered to support effective vaccine storage. UNICEF and USAID funding has also procured 36 refrigerator vans for vaccine transportation from regional storage facilities to vaccination points.

In 2022 and 2023, UNICEF procured almost 2.9 million doses of vaccines (polio vaccines, Hepatitis B, diphtheria-tetanus for children and adults, measles-mumps-rubella, BCG for tuberculosis, pentavalent vaccine, rabies) at the request of Ukraine’s Ministry of Health. 

Media contacts

Damian Rance
Chief Advocacy and Communications
UNICEF Ukraine

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org  

Follow UNICEF Ukraine on FacebookInstagram Twitter та TikTok.