How Does Ukraine Deal with Anti-Vaxxers?
Vaccination became a matter of national security for the Ukrainian government, as sections of the general population in Ukraine are skeptical or even completely against vaccines. A notable number of deaths have been attributed to low vaccination numbers. How is the country dealing with anti-vaccination sentiments?
Twenty-five of them were children. Just this year, 58,000 people were infected with the disease, according to UN statistics. Even though research proves that vaccines save lives, only half of Ukraine’s population believe that they work. Ignoring vaccinations exposes people to deadlier diseases, such as polio. Although eliminated in Europe since 2002, two children in Ukraine were paralyzed by the disease in 2015.
“A threat, including a threat not to let our children to schools, which is floating around and being promoted by the Health Ministry, is pure discrimination. No one is showing the other side. They are many harmed children, for example, my nephew. He has autism and being vaccinated he had a fever of 40 C for a week. And my sister that used to laugh at me now treats it seriously. Now she has to deal with it,” an anti-vaccination movement member Andriy Cherenkov said.
The Ukrainian government now considers vaccination a matter of national security. Even though it is a requirement to show proof of vaccination before children are admitted to schools, only half of the country’s newborns were inoculated against diseases like measles, mumps, polio, tetanus and whooping cough in 2016. People don’t understand that immunization rates generally need to be around 95 percent to achieve ‘herd immunity’ and protect the population.
“As an agent of change, I have an opportunity to deliver information by telling people I know, my friends and now my patients about what opportunities exist. Why it is better to do one way or another. Why it is worth performing emergency prevention measures. Some people say that measles is a children’s illness and it is better to just go through it. But as soon as they go through the illness, those who were against vaccination ask to be vaccinated,” pediatrician Anna Kukharuk said.
Vaccination supporters who voice their opinions on social media are often attacked. Olena Kudryashova, a 31-year-old fitness trainer, caught measles when her daughter was just over 1, right when she made the decision to give her the shots. The child, unfortunately, caught the disease too. Later ensuring that her baby was immunized, she posted to social media, receiving backlash.
“In general, I have tolerant views on most of the topics. But in this case, I think there should be more strict rules because those children and people who were not vaccinated pose a threat. Why should my child be endangered because someone decided that vaccination is bad,” Kudriashova said.
From March to August, the group “Vaccination. Free choice” protested against requirements for children to be vaccinated. Kyiv, at roughly 3 million residents, had 87 cases of measles in 2017. Between January and June this year, it recorded 5,000.