Vaccinations against flu proving to be hard sell

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Nov. 12, 2009, 10:53 p.m. | Ukraine — by Peter Byrne
Officials fear vaccine fears could make epidemic much worse. In their efforts to contain an escalating flu epidemic and prevent a potentially bigger wave of infections early next year, Ukraine’s political elite and health-care professionals are desperately trying to revive trust in the nation’s vaccination program.

That trust was broken with a rare vaccine-related death of a child in May who was innoculated against measles. The incident sparked a nationwide scandal. In the confusion, hundreds of thousands of citizens refused to get vaccines for flu and other illnesses in the ensuing panic, sparking health officials back then to warn of a pending flu epidemic. And, as a result, a combination of seasonal flu and the A/H1N1 strain hit the nation particularly hard in recent weeks, health experts said.

Referring to the much-publicized vaccine scandal from early this year, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said on Nov. 9 that the country’s “vaccination program has been completely destroyed.”

“We will be faced with more difficult problems” if citizens do not regain trust in the country’s vaccination program in coming months, she added.

The socially disruptive measures – closing of schools and banning of public gatherings – that were introduced on Oct. 30 by Tymoshenko’s government helped to mitigate infection rates. Still, health officials said that as of Nov. 11 more than 1 million Ukrainians were registered with flu-related illnesses, while more than 200 had died since October 29.

It is less clear, however, whether Ukrainian officials have enough time to identify and procure the necessary vaccines to prevent a bigger flu epidemic from hitting early next year, just as the country’s voters line up at polling booths to choose their next president.

Health Ministry officials say such vaccines could arrive around the first round of voting, which is on Jan. 17. If massive vaccination does not take off by then, Ukraine could be hammered even harder by a resurging flu epidemic.

Overall, Ukraine’s political leaders have provided less than ringing endorsements for mass inoculation. They remain at loggerheads, treating the flu epidemic as a political football, each blaming one another for mishandling the epidemic.

President Victor Yushchenko on Nov. 11 said he would not support legislation doling out Hr 1 billion in funding to help Tymoshenko’s government purchase anti-flu medicines and equipment. She shot back accusing him of “killing his own voters.”

But the president on Nov. 9 did reaffirm his support for nationwide vaccination and appealed to the World Health Organization to provide 16-17 million doses of a vaccine against the A/H1N1 virus. While the WHO has not responded to the request, the organization’s stated goal is to provide developing countries with enough vaccine to immunize at least 10 percent of their population. Deployment of the first supplies of vaccines to these countries is expected to take place from now through February.

Vaccines do cause side effects, and, in rare instances, the side effects can be serious. In particular, people who are already ill with another infection should avoid vaccines. But fearing vaccines more than the illnesses they prevent can be dangerous, health experts say.

Vaccines developed over the last 50 years have slashed the death rates of nearly a dozen infectious diseases, such as small pox, measles, polio, hepatitis and the mumps. Vaccinations against these and other infectious diseases are required in many countries, including Ukraine, for school enrollment and military service. Flu vaccination, here and elsewhere, remains voluntary.

A feature article in the November issue of The Atlantic Magazine, titled “Does the Vaccine Matter,” drew attention to several epidemiologists and influenza specialists who maintain that much of what we know about fighting the flu is wrong. They insisted that it is silly to put faith in the power of vaccines. But the overwhelming majority of pediatricians and epidemiologists worldwide say the best and safest way people can protect themselves against flu-related illnesses is to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.
The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 2:24 a.m.    

Reminds me of when people say that computer viruses are created by the anti-virus software companies.

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 10:35 a.m.    

aren`t they? ;)

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 3:59 p.m.    

I don't know if links are allowed, but you can do your own search.

From CBS web site:

"There is a reason 60 percent of educated health care workers historically decline the seasonal vaccine, and there is even more opposition to the H1NI."

"findings of three more surveys by leading British and Canadian medical publications that revealed one in two doctors have severe reservations over the safety of the forthcoming H1N1 vaccine."

"severe nerve disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which killed more people than the actual flu virus the last time a pandemic was declared in 1976."

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 8:12 p.m.    

My sister's family and parents were vaccinated against H1N1 wich Pandemrix about 3 weeks ago and except for some pain the next day, they are now well.

Off course they do not live in Ukraine but in Western Europe. :)

Most health care workers in their environment are vaccinated. (more than 70%)

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 2:44 a.m.    

Ukrainians are unfortunately very suspicious of anything by nature, which gives into conspiracy theories.

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 11:30 a.m.    

The Chinese are even more suspicious then the Ukrainians are. Apparently not the nature is to be blamed for this flaw, but the communist administrative system.

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 5:17 a.m.    

Ukrainians (most of them) are unfortunately anti-intellectual by nature (referring to previously posted anti-nutritionist letter).

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 11:27 a.m.    

It is very intellectual to form an opinion about a people by misinterpreting their Prime Minister. I can draw the same conclusion from reading your post: Most Harrys are....choose what you like

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 6:02 a.m.    

What do you expect when the Prime Minister announces publicly that Garlic and Lemon are better than vaccines?

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Anonymous Nov. 13, 2009, 9:53 a.m.    

According to this article, nobody wants the vaccination. But have you tried buying one???

I have been trying to buy my yearly flu shot since BEFORE this flu panic, and there are none to be had anywhere, for any price. No Pharmacies have any. They all say there are none available, they haven't had any in stock since last winter and they will be available in late November or early December.

You would think that if nobody wants them there would be LOTS available. :(

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Anonymous Nov. 14, 2009, 9:43 p.m.    

Please go to to find out the truth

about vaccines, side effects, mass worldwide genocide planned by WHO, UN,

Centers for Discease Control etc.

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