As Ukraine faces one of the world’s worst measles outbreaks, doctors and parents work together to dispel myths about vaccines.
Pavel Zmey, Nina Sorokopud and Adrian M. Brune
The rash doesn’t usually show up until several days after the other symptoms – a cough, fever, and sore throat – but by this time, the virus has been in the body for nearly two weeks. Within hours, the rash will cover the body, and last another week. There is no cure for measles – it remains one of the most serious illnesses for children under age 5.
Since 2017, more than 100,000 people have contracted measles in Ukraine, with 15 deaths already in 2019 – six of them children. The outbreak has fuelled concerns over low vaccination rates in the country, caused by misinformation and a shortage of vaccines in previous years. Measles is extremely contagious; an estimated 90 per cent of unprotected people who come close to someone with measles will contract it, too.
This World Immunization Week, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are launching a new global campaign to emphasize the power and safety of vaccines. From 24–31 April, the foundation will contribute US$1 to UNICEF for every like or share of a social media post using the hashtag #VaccinesWork, up to US$1 million. In the meantime, UNICEF will continue to assist Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in monitoring the outbreak, helping the Government procure free vaccines and spreading the message that together, communities can protect everyone through vaccines.
[ABOVE]: Olena Kudryashova and her daughter, Maya, 17 months, walk outside their home in Kyiv. Both caught measles in 2018. Olena was infected first, before spreading the illness to her daughter. Today, Olena supports vaccination as early as possible. “Vaccination, like politics or religion, leaves no one indifferent,” she says. “But… there is no room for discussion in vaccination. It is absurd to deny its effectiveness.”