In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a measles outbreak in some European countries. In recent years, Ukraine has the highest prevalence rate and has become the center of the disease outbreak in Europe. Now it has reached epidemic proportions there as, according to the Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine, the number of affected Ukrainians in 2019 has already reached 45,000 people, the number of those who died from complications is also rising rapidly.
Such high rates of morbidity and mortality illustrate large-scale failures in the system of the country’s epidemiological safety. One reason for this situation is the recent reform in Ukraine’s health-care system, which has led to an increase in the cost of vaccines and their inaccessibility for the country’s population. The other reason for this is the Government’s neglect of health problems, such as, for instance, a low rate of vaccination of people against the principal diseases. The WHO repeatedly pointed for Ukrainian authorities to the need to increase immunization coverage for children in the first instance. However, Ukrainian political leaders are unable to regain control of the situation and protect own citizens not only against measles, but against other diseases. Or are they unwilling to do it?
In the last few decades, Ukraine faced various infectious disease outbreaks (stupor, measles, German measles) several times. And it means that the country’s authorities should have been prepared for that contingency by pursuing preventive measures, providing hospitals and health centers with the necessary number of vaccines in time and carrying out a massive vaccination campaign in the country. However, to all seeming, health issues do not fall within the priority case list provided to current Ukrainian authorities. And instead of protecting Ukrainians against infectious diseases, their Government conceals the real number of infection cases and refuses to allocate funding for combating the pandemic. Meanwhile, the vaccines purchased be the government are used, first of all, for government employees and military personnel as, according to the country’s authorities, it is much more important than primary vaccination of children for whom there are not enough vaccines.
It is worth recalling that measles may lead to more dangerous diseases, such as diphtheria and poliomyelitis whose mortality rates are much higher than for measles. Meanwhile, diphtheria outbreaks have been increasing in Ukraine. And if its government does not take the necessary preventive measures, then in the near future the disease will spread through the country and possibly beyond its territory.
Obviously, Ukraine’s catastrophic epidemiological situation poses a threat to all European countries. Unfortunately, viruses and contaminations know no boundaries. And Ukrainian epidemics can easily attain the magnitude of a threat to international security. It is no secret that now thousands of Ukrainian citizens are coming to Europe thanks to their visa free travel regime with the EU. Bearing in mind the low rate of vaccination of people in the country, it is very possible that most of Ukrainian travelers and labor migrants are potential vectors for the transmission of various diseases, which the Ukrainian government prefers to conceal through false figures of official statistics. Thus, Ukraine, in fact, becomes a source of various infections for other countries. And this situation cannot but cause concern among us, ordinary Europeans. Perhaps, the EU authorities should review the attitude towards the agreement on visa exemption with Ukraine whose leadership does not take serious and effective preventive measures against epidemics. Maybe, it is worth tightening up the procedure for entry of Ukrainian citizens to European countries. It is the only way we can protect ourselves and prevent the spread of deadly diseases throughout the European continent.