A scare in Ukraine about the side effects from vaccines could lead to disease spreading beyond the country’s borders, health experts fear.
The reaction by sections of Ukraine’s population has been blamed on irresponsible media coverage of an anti-vaccination campaign which erroneously linked the death of a 17-year-old boy to the combined shot for measles and rubella.
Experts also said that government mismanagement contributed to hundreds of thousands of fearful Ukrainians refusing vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria, mumps, polio, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, whooping cough and others this year.
Authorities were forced to cancel a measles and rubella vaccination campaign funded by US philanthropist Ted Turner, and will have to collect and incinerate nearly nine million unused doses over the coming months.
Spokesman for Unicef Michael Bociurkiw said: “I never thought I’d see the day where perfectly good vaccines are being destroyed.”
Protesters, including members of the homeopathic and alternative healing industries, blamed the boy’s death on the vaccination.
Ukrainian authorities halted a campaign to revaccinate nine million Ukrainians aged 16 to 29 while it investigated the claims.
The Ukrainian health ministry and the World Health Organisation ruled that the boy died of septic shock from a bacterial infection unrelated to the vaccine. But the ministry still terminated the revaccination campaign.
Copyright Press Association 2009