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Two cases of polio confirmed in Ukraine- first cases in Europe since 2010

14 September 2015 Kavita Rainova

On Wednesday, 1 September, the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed two cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1) in south western Ukraine. These are the first cases of the disease in Europe since 2010. The WHO has attributed these cases to the low immunization rates in Ukraine, which last year had amounted to just about 50% of children.

The news comes as a culmination of a few months' worth of reports being circulated in Ukraine's media over shortage of supplies of vaccines in the country. In fact, in July Ukraine's deputy Health Minister, Igor Pereginets, had pointed out that the supply for "most types" of vaccines in Ukraine's regions was only sufficient for one or two months, with an especially critical condition being around the supply of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine for tuberculosis (TB). Although Ukraine's Health Minister, Alexander Kvitashvili, has recently announced that pilot programmes for the procurement of vaccines via international organisations would start this year, the vaccines situation in the country nevertheless raises concerns over the potential rise in the incidence of other vaccine-preventable diseases and in particular, TB.

In the meantime, the WHO has stated that discussions are under way with the country's national health authorities to set in place an urgent outbreak response. The organisation further added that cVDPVs are "rare but well-documented strains of poliovirus" and a "robust outbreak response can rapidly stop such events". However, given the low immunization rates in the country and insufficient monitoring, the WHO has assessed the risk of the strain spreading in Ukraine as high.

While an outbreak response is being planned and implemented, the potential for maintenance of higher immunisation rates as well as adequate surveillance in the country, unfortunately, raises certain doubts due to the continuing lack of funds and economic stagnation in Ukraine.

Overall, the news lays further proof to the ongoing instability and economic woes plaguing the healthcare system the country, which have been discussed in the earlier blogs by IHS Life Sciences Ukraine: Chaos continuing within country's healthcare system?, and Ukraine's current healthcare market: Uncertainty, pricing reforms, and calls for the health minister's resignation. Needless to say, the current situation with healthcare provision in Ukraine leaves much to be hoped for in the future.

Kavita Rainova is a life sciences analyst for IHS
Posted 14 September 2015

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