Donating a fleet of buses, WHO and EU help strengthen vaccination drives in Ukraine to protect the most vulnerable
15 February 2023
The WHO Country Office in Ukraine, with European Union support, has donated 59 buses to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine to help strengthen far-flung vaccination efforts across the country during the war.
The buses will be staffed by mobile and outreach teams and will travel across all regions controlled by the Government of Ukraine to administer vaccines against infectious diseases including COVID-19, measles and diphtheria, with a particular focus on internally displaced persons, vulnerable groups, including the elderly and those with chronic health conditions and anyone residing in remote and hard to reach areas.
“Vaccination coverage has been significantly impacted over the past year of war, and these buses will help ensure that Ukraine continues on its journey to ensure IDPs and the most vulnerable populations can more easily access vaccines against diseases that could prove deadly,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
“Out of 35 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines delivered in country since beginning of pandemic, only 4 million (11%) doses have been implemented after 24 February 2022. We also observe routine immunization efforts face challenges as a result and we are preparing to address these risks of outbreaks of measles and diphtheria.”
With WHO support in partnership with EU and USAID since April – December 2022, up to 400,000 people across 1,500 locations across eight regions have been reached with outreach immunization services which include vaccinations, and information on how to catch up on required immunization to prevent the outbreaks of infectious diseases.
COVID-19 and routine vaccines are provided by public healthcare facilities throughout Ukraine and are administered according to global recommendations and in line with national vaccination calendar. Vaccines are available and administered free of charge in the country.
The donated buses will be distributed by the Ministry of Health among all Regional Сenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCs).
WHO in Ukraine supports the national immunization program in partnership with the European Union. This includes strengthening of program capacities at national and regional levels and providing technical and operational support to eliminate inequities in vaccine coverage and extending population access to services as well as informational support for vaccination campaigns to prevent further large-scale outbreaks of infectious diseases. WHO shares recommendations, technical guidance, conducts trainings for immunization program specialists and healthcare workers, and provides consumables and also assists in the delivery of vaccines to Ukraine as part of the COVAX international initiative.
Dr Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine said: “WHO in Ukraine will continue to work tirelessly to support immunization efforts and help the country to increase vaccination coverage this year. Today’s crucial donation of buses with the EU marks a major step in this direction, and we thank our partners, and the Ministry of Health for continuing to provide their populations with effective protection against infectious diseases.”
“This donation will also help to address most recent challenges health system faces due to ongoing missile attacks to energy infrastructure which significantly affect vaccine cold chain and vaccine distribution to places with no stable electricity supply. Intensifying mobile and outreach services will help to better serve populations residing in these areas and improve their protection from infectious diseases.”
Dr Ihor Kuzin, Deputy Minister of Health said: “During the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, the vaccination campaign did not stop for a single day. Thanks to our partners, the donated busses will greatly strengthen the Regional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so that we can strengthen routine immunization and reach as many people as possible with vaccinations against COVID-19. A special focus will be on IDPs, people with limited mobility and people living in hard-to-reach areas“.
Martin Schroeder, Head of Section “Human and Local Development“at the European Union Delegation to Ukraine said: "Strengthening public health systems is one of the top priorities in EU-Ukraine’s dialogue in the health area. The donation of these buses today marks an important step to help strengthen the vaccination drive in Ukraine and ensure the most vulnerable are being protected against infectious diseases. We plan to continue our partnership with WHO in Ukraine and the Ministry of Health to ensure that Ukraine's public health system is supported in this challenging period of full-fledged Russian war and beyond".