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Vaccine scare threatens health in Ukraine

© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov
A medical worker prepares to administer a vaccine to Yaroslav, 16 month old, being held by his mother Oksana Vasylenko in a outpatient clinic in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, March 20, 2009.

By Associated Press Writer MARIA DANILOVA

Kyiv, 25 March 2009 (AP) — A widespread scare about vaccine side effects in Ukraine has led to a sharp drop in immunizations that could result in disease outbreaks spreading beyond the former Soviet republic, international and local health officials say.

Hundreds of thousands of fearful Ukrainians have refused vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria, mumps, polio, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, whooping cough and others this year, according to official estimates. Authorities have canceled a U.N.-backed measles and rubella vaccination campaign funded by U.S. philanthropist Ted Turner, and will have to collect and incinerate nearly 9 million unused doses in coming months.

"I never thought I'd see the day where perfectly good vaccines are being destroyed," said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for UNICEF.

Around the world, health officials say they are struggling with the repercussions of vaccine fears they call unwarranted and dangerous.

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