Via The Guardian: Ukraine could destroy 3.7m polio vaccines despite risk of major outbreak. Excerpt:
A healthcare lobby group is arguing for the destruction of 3.7 million polio vaccines donated to Ukraine by the UN, despite the risk (pdf) that a new outbreak of the disease could spread across the country and into the EU.
The all-Ukrainian council for patients’ rights and safety has alleged the vaccines are unsafe, because the frozen vaccines partially thawed while in air transit to Ukraine from the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur in France. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the transport and refreezing were carried out in line with international best practice, the complaint alleges that the process contradicts a set of Ukrainian guidelines that state the vaccines cannot be refrozen.
“We must absolutely destroy the vaccine, or pass it on to some poorer countries,” said Viktor Serdyuk, president of the council. “Good or bad – it does not matter. We should vaccinate safely and according to the protocol.”
The vaccines remain behind lock and key in government warehouses after the ministry of internal affairs launched an inquiry into whether they had been stored in the correct way. Ukrainian ministers are meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to release or incinerate the drugs.
The WHO says the vaccines are safe. Dr Dorit Nitzan, head of the organisation’s Ukraine office, said: “The way they’ve been stored is the normal practice. That’s how it’s been done all over the world.
“I keep telling the investigators, ‘These vaccines are the best you could have ever asked for – Canadian money, Unicef, pre-qualified by WHO, Sanofi Pasteur, made in France – what more do you want?’ But their view is that proper protocols must be followed. They just do that – but they [have forgotten] about the children.”
The move puts more than three million unvaccinated children at risk of the debilitating sickness. Two children, respectively aged 10 months and four years old, have already been paralysed after contracting polio in the first case of the disease in Europe since 2010. Hundreds more are believed to be carrying the virus, which could spread rapidly through a country where less than 50% of children and 14% of infants are inoculated against the disease.
“What we see is the tip of the iceberg. When two cases are presenting there are usually at least 200 carriers behind each one,” said Nitzan.