Vaccine refusals spur outbreak fears


MARIA DANILOVA
Associated Press
March 26, 2009

KIEV, Ukraine — A widespread scare about vaccine side effects in Ukraine has led to a sharp drop in immunizations that could result in disease outbreaks spreading beyond the former Soviet republic, international and local health officials say.

[efoods]Hundreds of thousands of fearful Ukrainians have refused vaccines for diseases such as diphtheria, mumps, polio, hepatitis B, tuberculosis, whooping cough and others this year, according to official estimates. Authorities have cancelled a UN-backed measles and rubella vaccination campaign funded by U.S. philanthropist Ted Turner, and will have to collect and incinerate nearly nine million unused doses in coming months.

“I never thought I’d see the day where perfectly good vaccines are being destroyed,” said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for UNICEF.

Around the world, health officials say they are struggling with the repercussions of vaccine fears they call unwarranted and dangerous.

In 2003, imams in northern Nigeria fomented a boycott of polio vaccinations claiming they were a Western plot to make Muslims infertile or infect them with HIV. Authorities in Indonesia are discussing a plan to end childhood immunizations against a number of diseases out of fears that foreign drug companies are using the country as a testing ground. A budding movement of parents getting exemptions from pre-school vaccination laws is seen as partly responsible for a spike in U.S. measles cases.

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