Ukrinform (Ukraine): Measles As A Threat To National Security

Ukrinform (Ukraine): Measles As A Threat To National Security
Ukrinform (Ukraine): Measles As A Threat To National Security

Video: Ukrinform (Ukraine): Measles As A Threat To National Security

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Video: Ukraine faces massive measles outbreak 2023, February

Kiev - The measles outbreak in Ukraine continues to build up disappointing statistics - over the past week, the incidence increased by another 3.9%, with the most among infants. In ten regions, the average incidence rate was exceeded, and most of all - in Rivne, Khmelnytsky, Volyn and Ternopil. 30 people died. This week, the first death was also recorded in the capital. Ironically, even several Ministry of Health employees contracted measles in February. The disease is now actively rampant throughout Europe (in 2018, 83 thousand people fell ill with measles - the largest indicator in a decade), and it was Ukraine that turned out to be the most vulnerable. We have more cases of measles patients than in the rest of Europe combined. The WHO explains the Ukrainian situation with vaccine coverage gaps.


Back in time: the incidence is almost the same as in "pre-vaccination" times

With the beginning of the new year, the incidence of measles in Ukraine is gaining increasing proportions. If in 2018 50 measles patients were registered daily, then already in 18 days of 2019 the number of patients per day exceeded 300-400 people. Epidemiologists explain that such a difficult situation is a consequence of the anti-vaccination information campaign that swept Ukraine more than 10 years ago. In particular, after the death of a teenager from Kramatorsk in 2008 due to an unfavorable set of circumstances. Since then, measles vaccination in our country has been interrupted. At the same time, international organizations predicted a future outbreak of infection in Ukraine and recommended mass vaccination of Ukrainians, which would strengthen the country's immune status. Through these organizations, about 11 million doses of measles vaccines were purchased.

It was planned to vaccinate children and adults under the age of 29 against measles, but, unfortunately, these plans were not fulfilled - Ukrainians massively refused to vaccinate their children, and over the past 10 years, a critical number of unvaccinated people have accumulated. When anti-vaccination sentiments began to subside, another problem arose - a shortage of immunological drugs in Ukraine. They were either not there at all, or were brought in with a significant delay. This disrupted the vaccination schedule that parents sometimes simply forgot about.

According to the head of the laboratory of the Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases. L.V. Gromashevsky of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine Igor Marichev, the scale of the spread of measles in Ukraine today is almost the same as was recorded in the pre-vaccination period of 1968, when vaccination was not carried out in Ukraine at all. He emphasizes that Ukraine now needs to take urgent measures in the fight against the measles epidemic, primarily for the vaccination of children. “We are approaching the fact that a significant part of the population of Ukraine will be covered by the measles epidemic. Means of fighting measles are known - firstly, it is propaganda and conditions that exclude the very fact of refusal of vaccinations. One example is Hungary, where 100% of the population has been vaccinated since 2001, so there are no measles cases. This indicator was achieved due to the fact that large fines were applied to the parents of unvaccinated children, and in case of repeated refusal, even the issue of deprivation of parental rights was considered. We need to fight epidemics with more effective measures,”says Igor Marychev.

Even "grafted" Europe suffers too

It is noteworthy that in 2018, Europe recorded a record number of people infected with the measles virus for the current decade. Indicators for 2018 are three times higher than those for 2017 and 15 times higher for 2016.

In total, in 2018, almost 83 thousand people fell ill with measles in Europe in 47 of the 53 countries of the WHO European Region. In the first place is Ukraine, which accounts for 64% of all European diseases. In second place in this sad leadership is Serbia (5 thousand people). By the way, almost three thousand cases of measles were recorded this year in Israel, which is also part of the WHO European Office.

Due to the low level of vaccination coverage in 2017, a significant outbreak of measles was also recorded in Italy - five thousand cases, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Then, Italy accounted for 34% of all measles cases reported in the countries of the European Economic Area. And despite this, in August 2018, the populist Italian government still canceled the compulsory vaccination for schoolchildren (in particular against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, meningitis and polio), as reported by NV.

Of course, I would not like to reduce the large-scale measles problem in Europe solely to conspiracy theories, but according to Radio Liberty, it is documented how the Russian "troll farm", which is accused of interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, artificially ignited controversy about vaccinations on social networks, eroding public confidence in these vaccines. Researcher David Broniatowski, professor at George Washington University in the US capital, cites examples of tweets by Russian "trolls": "Mandatory vaccination violates constitutional freedom of religion", "Did you know that there is a secret government database of vaccinated children?"

Other Russian "trolls" have also fueled distrust of pharmaceutical companies on Twitter, arguing that vaccines are unnecessary because they are intended mainly against relatively harmless diseases, Bronyatovski said. Others have fanned public fears by concocting misinformation like "natural infections always provide better immunity than vaccines" or "Do you know vaccines cause autism?" Of course, Russian intervention cannot be called the main engine of the anti-vaccination campaign, but they still influenced a certain part of the target audience.

While the awareness campaign on measles vaccination continues, Ukrinform turned to epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists to tell us what we might not know about measles.

1. Does the measles virus mutate to develop resistance to the vaccine?

Fedor Lapiy, Associate Professor of the Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Pediatric Immunology at P.L. Shupika explains:

“There are several genotypes of the measles virus that differ from each other. They circulate in a certain area, but can periodically replace each other. But a person, as a result of vaccination, develops cross-immunity against measles: that is, regardless of the genotype of the virus that a person has encountered, he will still be protected. The emergence or discovery of a new genotype is a completely natural process. For example, in 2018 we also discovered a new genotype, identified only in Ukraine."

2. Why do vaccinated people get sick?

Head of the Department of Infectious Diseases, N.N. Bogomolets Olga Golubovskaya explains:

“According to the vaccination schedule, two doses of measles vaccine must be administered. After the first one, 85% of vaccinated children develop immunity, while 15% do not. With the second dose, 97% gain immunity. True, there are children whose immunity does not respond to the vaccine. If the rules of vaccination were violated - a sick child was vaccinated, for example, then he may not develop a sufficient amount of protective antibodies, and the child may become ill in the future. Unfortunately, it is these isolated cases that undermine the credibility of vaccination. If you are not sure if you have sufficient immunity, this can be checked by having a blood test for measles antibodies at any age.

If an adult falls ill, a compulsory hospitalization is required.There is no “home treatment” for this disease for adults, as people get sicker “childhood” infections with age. This is a biological feature of the pathogen. In 2006, during the last period of a serious measles outbreak in Ukraine, the death rate was only among adults."

3. After suffering measles, the child's immunity weakens

According to Igor Marychev, head of the laboratory of the Institute of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases named after V.I. L.V. Gromashevsky, for two years after suffering measles, the child has a very low immunity and a high risk of morbidity from the activation of other viral infections remains.

“The measles virus reduces the body's immunological reactivity and triggers an autoimmune process in the body. Measles is also dangerous because in one case in a thousand it causes such deadly consequences as encephalitis. Severe consequences also include otitis media, pneumonia, which accompany the disease in a very high percentage. In no case should you provoke contact between a healthy child and a sick child in order to "specially" get sick with measles. Only vaccination saves”.


Measles is an infectious disease that is considered one of the most contagious in the world, as it is quickly transmitted from a sick person to a healthy person by airborne droplets (when sneezing, coughing or communicating). The measles virus can live in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after the sick person has left the room. The insidiousness of measles is due to its possible complications. The incubation period for measles (that is, the period when symptoms do not appear yet) is 6-21 days. Then the period of the disease begins with the following symptoms: high fever, headache, runny nose, dry cough, swollen lymph nodes, inflammation of the mucous membrane of the eyes (lacrimation, photophobia, purulent discharge), diarrhea and vomiting. On the 4-5th day of illness, a red rash appears, which begins on the scalp and face, and then spreads to the whole body. Symptomatic illness lasts up to 4 weeks or more.

It is important to understand that there is no cure for measles, because it is a viral disease. To kill a virus, you need, in fact, to kill the living cell in which it “settled”. Today there are no drugs that would only act on the virus. Patients or those who have been in contact with them are prescribed only immunoglobulins - drugs that enhance immunity so that the body itself overcomes the virus. Or the vaccine is administered in the first hours after contact with the patient in order to prevent complications.

Now two vaccines are supplied to Ukraine for MMR vaccinations (against measles, mumps and rubella) - Priorix / Priorix (manufactured by Glaxosmithkline Biologicals SA, Belgium) and M-M-R II / MM-RII (manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc., USA). Both vaccines are safe, effective and of high quality, which is confirmed by the WHO. Since measles vaccination is included in the list of mandatory measles vaccines, the Ministry of Health purchases vaccines and transfers them to health departments of the regions, and they, in turn, to state medical institutions, where vaccinations are given free of charge according to the calendar (the number of residual doses of vaccines in the regions can be seen here). For measles to go away - a national security issue - vaccination coverage must be 95% of the population. If children, adolescents, or adults have missed a routine vaccination in the past, they should be vaccinated as well. True, in this case, it must be done at your own expense.

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