5 important facts about immunization in Ukraine
Immunization through vaccination is the best and safest way to protect against many life-threatening diseases. The public trust in vaccination is a matter of national security in Ukraine. This is exactly why many myths about the safety of vaccines and the importance of immunization are being spread, in particular by Russian bots and trolls that are fueling anti-vaccination attitudes by spreading lies and posting anti-vaccine messages on social media to erode public trust in vaccination, healthcare systems and democratic societies. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine has to ensure that all Ukrainians have access to accurate and trustworthy information on vaccines, embrace the facts and not believe the fakes.
Fact 1: Quality and safety of vaccines procured for the state budget funds
All vaccines procured by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to Ukraine are of high quality, safe, and pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO). The quality and safety of all vaccines procured for the state budget funds are confirmed by extensive testing and use in different countries around the world.
All vaccine manufacturers carry out laboratory tests to test the safety, purity, and potency of each batch of vaccines, and provide statements on vaccine quality and lot releases for each batch, evaluating each individual lot before giving approval for its release onto the market.
The World Health Organization provides the prequalification service to UNICEF and other UN agencies that purchase vaccines, with regards to the acceptability, in principle, of vaccines from different sources for supply to these agencies. The purpose of the prequalification assessment is to provide assurance that vaccines meet the WHO recommendations on quality, safety and efficacy, including compliance with the WHO’s recommended standards for good manufacturing practices (GMP) and good clinical practice (GCP). The prequalification process envisages reassessments at regular intervals to ensure the continuing quality of vaccines.
The WHO contracts the best laboratories in the world, which perform comprehensive prequalification testing of the quality and safety of vaccines, which cannot be carried out by most national laboratories, including by the Ukrainian ones.
Fact 2: Vaccine manufactures
Ukraine purchases vaccines from the world's best manufacturers, which guarantee compliance with the highest quality and safety standards. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine procures for the state budget funds only safe and effective vaccines that are used in many other countries of the world. Ukraine purchases vaccines from manufactures from the following five countries: France, the USA, India, Bulgaria, Belgium and the Republic of Korea.
For instance, Ukraine purchases the WHO prequalified diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccines from Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd (SIIPL) – the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by number of doses produced. Today, the Serum Institute of India's vaccines are used to protect children from dangerous diseases in 140+ countries across the globe.
Fact 3: Access to free vaccines for children and adults
Ukraine has enough vaccines to cover all age groups that need to be immunized.
All vaccines included in the National Recommended Immunization Schedule, including those intended for booster and catch-up immunization, are procured for the state budget funds and are provided free of charge to both children and adults. In particular, Ukraine procures vaccines for the prevention of ten diseases: hepatitis B, tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, poliomyelitis, Haemophilus Influenzae Type b (Hib), measles, rubella, and mumps.
Please follow the link to view the list and/or check availability of vaccines procured for the state budget funds (in Ukrainian only).
In view of an increase in the number of measles cases among adults since the beginning of 2018, Ukraine’s Health Ministry initiated measles vaccination of adults in at-risk groups for disease-control purposes. Vaccines are provided free of charge to people living in a common space (military, students), educators and doctors.
Ukrainians can purchase other vaccines in any pharmacy nationwide and get vaccinated at a health facility of their choice. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine does not regulate the availbility of vaccines sold in the private sector.
Fact 4: Vaccine information statements and detailed instructions
All healthcare providers in Ukraine who administer, to any child or adult, any vaccine shall have the relevant current edition vaccine information materials and detailed instructions in Ukrainian, and provide these materials to patients upon request. Heads of all health facilities bear the primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with this requirement.
In addition, the detailed information and instructions in Ukrainian for all vaccines registered in Ukraine can be viewed at: http://www.drlz.com.ua/
Fact 5: Unjustified bans on sale, supply and use of vaccines
Several vaccine ban decisions were recently made by the State Service of Ukraine on Medicines and Drugs Control (SMDC) in contravention of the established procedures. There were no sufficient grounds and facts for imposing bans on sale, supply and use of safe and effective vaccines, in particular, vaccines against tuberculosis, hepatitis B, poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. In each particular case, the official reports on the investigations carried out by special regional groups contained information that no adverse events were related to vaccination.
Meanwhile, these bans caused temporary unavailability of vaccines for routine immunization of Ukrainians: children could not be vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule. Moreover, these bans were given wide coverage by the media, which bore the risks of discrediting immunization and other vaccines, as well as of increasing vaccine hesitancy and refusal rates.
Having successfully resolved the problems related to vaccine shortages, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine now makes every effort to ensure that Ukrainians trust reliable and evidence-based facts about vaccination, not the fakes and discredited theories. All citizens of Ukraine should exercise their right to health, including by getting vaccinated and vaccinating children against life-threatening diseases.