Five years ago, to vaccinate a child meant to protect him from virus diseases. Nowadays, doctors insist it means the same, but society no longer believes.

Statistics proves that the level of children's vaccination in Ukraine is way lower than in other CIS countries. According to Viktor Lyashko, head of the state sanitary control department of Sanitary Service of Ukraine, in 2009-2011 maximum rate of vaccination from any particular virus made 70-75% and sometimes only 46%. "This is very low level, because to form collective immunity to a virus we must reach 95% vaccination level minimum. In Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan the level of vaccination makes 99%," the specialist says.  

Meanwhile, young parents in Ukraine worry about the quality of vaccines and possible consequences of vaccination. According to public opinion, a number of sad cases, when children suffered serious complications after vaccination, have led to distrust. "The low level of vaccination has been observed since 2008, when immunization campaign against measles and rubella started. The campaign has failed due to various reasons, including political, and as a result, people have lost faith in vaccination," Lyashko added.

Mass media wrote a lot about tragic cases, happened to children in post-vaccination period. However, the answer to that situation has not been found yet, and doctors and parents agree to differ.

ForUm has decided to find out how safe children's vaccination in Ukraine is and what total refusal from vaccination can result in.

The voice of the people

Even those who agree to vaccinate their children in accordance with medical calendar do not trust much the procedure. 

Lubov, mother of a five-year-old daughter, follows the calendar of vaccination but every time worries about the quality of vaccines and possible consequences for her child. "I follow the calendar and vaccinate my child in time, but still I fear those vaccines. I personally know some cases, when mothers with children were staying in hospital after vaccination. Doctors only shrug shoulders and decline all responsibility for complications. Frankly speaking, I would stay away from vaccines if I could," Lubov says.

Olena, mother of one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, also follows the calendar but mostly die to formal reasons. "We follow all medical procedures and I hope it will protect my daughter from viruses, but the main reason is legal - kindergartens do not take children without vaccines. The quality of vaccines is good, and I don't know mothers who objected to their children being inoculated. Probably they also fear that their children won't be accepted to kindergarten," Olena says.

ForUm has also found parents who reject any vaccination. "My older two-year-old son has had only one shot, while the younger has not been vaccinated at all," Anna says.

Oleksiy, father of four-year-old Yana, also says he and his wife have not vaccinated their daughter and have no intentions to. "We rejected vaccination because in our city seventeen-year-old Anton Tishchenko died after vaccination. We know many cases when children fell sick or have become disabled after vaccination. Thanks God, our child is healthy and we do not intend to vaccinate her. The only formal problem we had was registration in the kindergarten. The administration demanded the list of taken vaccines, though by the law they have no right to do this," Oleksiy explains.

It's worth mentioning that to overcome formal obstacles parents often agree to forge the vaccination list. One of ForUm's interviewees told us that his child has medical papers proving all necessary vaccination, while in reality he has not received any.

The reason of such actions is simple - to avoid problems during the registration procedure in a kindergarten.

Legal side

The situation on acceptance to kindergarten is legally complicated. The Health Ministry told ForUm that according to the law "On protection from virus diseases", "children not vaccinated according to the calendar are not allowed to attend children's institutions." At the same time, the article 53 of the Constitution says that "everyone has a right to education." Having consulted specialists in education sphere, we have learned that there is a number of legal acts specifying the order of acceptance to children's institutions. Thus, kindergarten administration's demands like "we won't take your child unless he has documents proving all necessary vaccination" are illegal. According to the legal norm, the final word on vaccination lies with parents, while permission to attend kindergartens lies with medical advisory commission.  

So, if children have not been vaccinated in full or at all due to medical alerts or if the terms of vaccination have not been followed, these children still can attend children's institutions by decision of the council of respective physicians. If parents object to their children being inoculated, the decision on acceptance to children's institutions must be made by the medical advisory commission. Thus, if unvaccinated child has council's or commission's permission to attend a kindergarten, the administration of the kindergarten is obliged to accept him, official letter of the Education Ministry says.

There is no smoke without fire

Regardless of formal complications, parents do not hurry in hospitals to vaccinate their children. However, doctors note that the level of distrust among the population decreases. "Starting from the end of 2010 - beginning of 2011, vaccination has been regaining trust of the population," Viktor Lyshko says. The Healthcare Ministry states that the level of awareness among parents has improved, and as a result, the number of objections to vaccination has decreased.

"Objections to vaccination depend on many factors, including distribution of false information in mass media and religious practices," Healthcare Ministry press office specifies. Moreover, president of all-Ukrainian charity organization "Council on rights and security of patients" Viktor Serdyuk informs that this year the council has not received any complaints from parents on post-vaccination complications but from time to time, it does register the appeals. "Last time parents appealed to us was last year," he said.

The Healthcare Ministry adds that there is a strict order of registration of all unfortunate cases of post-vaccination complications. "We register and analyze all cases. Taking into account the fact that newborns undergoes almost continues process of vaccination, any changes in health can be considered as consequences of vaccination. That's why, only thorough study of each case enables to tell the cause and connection to vaccination. In many cases the matter concerns pure coincidence."

At the same time, it is very long and difficult procedure to defend the rights of your child and prove it is not just a coincidence. "We can speak about rights for a long time, but to defend these rights requires much time, resources and health," Viktor Serdyuk says. In expert's opinion, to find justice Ukraine should follow the example of neighboring countries. "There is a special insurance against complications and medical harm. We came back from Brussels recently. There we met with deputy health minister of Poland and found out that similar insurance was introduced last year. In case of post-vaccination complications, the government pays compensation. Such actions were taken to prove that there is someone responsible," he added. At the same time, the expert noted that insurance against medical harm is not the only way, but one of the possible variants.   

There no similar norms in Ukraine so far, but in case of misfortune Ukrainians may appeal to the "Council on rights and security of patients", which can help to regulate legal issues.

No fear

Even if the final word on vaccination lies with parents, there is no need to run to extremes. The decision must be well thought-out. Moreover, the decision to reject vaccination is not the best way out, according to specialists. As an example, Viktor Lyshko remembered the outbreak of measles on the territory of Western Ukraine.

"Such situation proves that there is a layer of population, vulnerable to controlled infections. People without double vaccination against measles suffer more. Moreover, having got sick after 25 years old, a person is exposed to complications, which in turn requires additional hospitalization, emergency care, assistance of high-skilled professionals. Thus, vaccination should not be treated superficially," the specialist notes.

According to him, the matter concerns not only measles but also other infectious diseases. "European Union is free from poliomyelitis. However, poliomyelitis still exists in the world. Parents, who reject vaccination for their children thinking that the disease has been exterminated, may appear in the situation when one imported case causes an outbreak. For this we must provide collective immunity and vaccinate our children. These are infections we can fight and overcome with collective immunity. It has been proved by smallpox, which no longer exist in the world for now," the office says.

As for the quality of vaccines, the Healthcare Ministry assures that all vaccines have been passed state registration and approval. Moreover, every new coming vaccine undergoes examination and lab control. Purchasing vaccines, the Healthcare Ministry prefers those used by European countries. Transportation and storage are carried out in accordance with medical norms.

Thus, the choice is yours, dear Ukrainians. Before taking the decision, measure thrice and cut once. And whatever your decision is, the most important thing is that kids grow healthy and facts on safety of vaccination procedure are true.

Tetyana Matsur


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