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Ukraine: Measles outbreak DREF operation n° MDRUA009 Final Report

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Description of the disaster

The measles outbreak in Ukraine has significantly worsened in 2018, as Ukraine reported more measles cases than all EU countries in the same year. Large-scale outbreak response measures have been undertaken since the start of the outbreak in 2017 to curb further spread of the disease and restore high routine immunization coverage, however, in 2018 the amount of the confirmed cases has increased tenfold. In 2018, an average weekly increase of 11.2 per cent brought the total number of measles cases to 54,481 (20,204 adults and 34,277 children), with 16 deaths. Since the beginning of 2019, prior the DREF launch, more than 21,000 cases (7 deaths) have been registered which is an absolute record for the country and 300 per cent increase from 2018’s January and February months.

Despite the efforts of the national Measles Task Force (involving the Ministry of Health (MoH), key stakeholders and partners such as WHO, UNDP and the UNICEF) since 2017 to vaccinate every eligible child with the measles-mumpsrubella vaccine (MMR) as they reach the appropriate vaccination age according to the national routine immunization schedule, the vaccination rate for 2018 decreased.

Multiple sources indicate a combination of possible reasons for low vaccination rates and the spread of the virus, such as: low immunization rates in rural settlements due to high transportation costs; low vaccination awareness; high number of people in risk groups (HIV, TB, Chernobyl victims, etc.) with weakened immune system. Also, identified as the main factor of the low immunization, vaccine refusal become increasingly common in Ukraine, with parents correlating vaccination with potential health consequences for their children or have distrust in the quality of vaccines.

Throughout the DREF response that has lasted for six months (March – September 2019), measles outbreak statistics differed. The recorded numbers of measles cases of winter 2019 have decreased in spring and summer 2019, however, occasional monthly or weekly spikes of the caseload were recorded. Despite the mentioned, the overall trend, showed gradual decrease of the cases.