The World Health Organization (WHO) in August 2015 confirmed that two Ukrainian children had been crippled by the polio virus in the former Soviet state's southwestern Zakarpattya region. Both the WHO and the Kiev government blamed the new polio cases, the first in Ukraine since 1996, on low vaccination coverage throughout the war-torn state.
Three global health groups accused Ukraine's health authorities of having being critically late and ineffective in responding to Europe's first polio outbreak since 2010. They said that the authorities had done little to nothing since then to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.
AdvertisementEllyn Ogden of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said, "No other country in the world is in such a dire situation or shows such disregard for protecting children against childhood diseases. International experience has shown that slow, inadequate response drags outbreaks out and increases cost and potential for international spread. Children in Ukraine have not been vaccinated against polio since 2008."
The UNICEF and the WHO warned that Ukraine's inaction is putting the lives of up to 1.8 million children at risk. Both the United Nations agencies said in a joint statement, "Risk of further polio outbreak remains unless a full-scale immunization campaign begins immediately to stop the transmission of the polio virus."
UNICEF said, "We have procured 3.7 million oral polio vaccines for the cash-strapped country with the help of funding from Canada, a Kiev ally that has one of the world's largest Ukrainian diasporas."
The WHO has pronounced the treatments completely safe. But Ukrainian Health Minister Alexander Kvitashvili said, "Some doubts remained about storage conditions of the first portion of the vaccine that arrived from Canada. But the second portion is absolutely fine and ready for use now. Today, the health ministry is actually starting its vaccination campaign. I have already signed the corresponding decree."