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WHO Reports Two Cases of Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus in Ukraine

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed two cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 (cVDPV1) in Ukraine. The cases involved a four-year old child and a 10-month old child in the Zakarpatskaya region of southwestern Ukraine. The onset of paralysis occurred on June 30 and July 7, 2015.1 According to the WHO, the emergence of cVDPV1 was due to “inadequate vaccination coverage” in Ukraine, as “only 50% of children [in the country] were fully immunized against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases.”1 

Interestingly, the cVDPV1, which is a rare, mutated form of the poliovirus, is caused by the oral polio vaccine itself. A recent article in The Washington Post by Ariana Eunjung Cha notes:

Oral polio vaccines contain a weakened form of the virus that activates an immune response in the body so that it builds up antibodies to protect itself. But it takes some time for this to happen, and meanwhile the virus replicates in the intestines and can be excreted by the person immunized and can spread to others in the community.2 

So the take-away point here—or at least the one that logically might elicit the most concern—should be the fact that people vaccinated against the virus can actually excrete (or “shed”) the virus and infect other people. Of course, this is counter-intuitive, because that would mean that vaccinating people to prevent infectious diseases from spreading might actually have the opposite effect.

Sometimes the weakened vaccine strain live virus can mutate and regain virulence, including neurovirulence, which significantly raises risks of serious complications from vaccine strain virus infection. Healthy persons can suffer complications from vaccine strain viral infection but children and adults with immunodeficiency are more likely to develop complications after they receive live virus vaccines or come in close contact with a person who is shedding vaccine strain live virus.3 

Just like people with viral infections can shed and transmit wild-type virus, people given live virus vaccines can shed and transmit vaccine strain live attenuated virus. Like wild-type virus, vaccine strain live virus can be shed in body fluids, such as saliva, nasal and throat secretions, breastmilk, urine and blood, stool, and skin lesions. Shedding after vaccination with live virus vaccines may continue for days, weeks or months, depending upon the vaccine and the health or other individual host factors of the vaccinated person.4 

Now, there’s your newsworthy story.

Instead, the story is seemingly being manipulated in a way that attributes the paralysis of the two children, not on the vaccine which led to the cVDPV1, but to the idea that in under-vaccinated populations “the vaccine-virus can circulate for long time, 12 months or longer, and genetically change into a more virulent form that can paralyze.”2  This makes it easier for the WHO and other health authorities to make their case for increasingly higher levels of vaccination. The WHO stresses that the “emergence of cVDPV strains underscores the importance of maintaining high levels of routine vaccination coverage.”1 

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has joined the WHO in calling for parents in Ukraine to vaccinate following the confirmed polio outbreak.5  Remember now, we’re talking about two children. Two. An article by the United Nations News Centre references a press release by UNICEF…

‘The only effective way to protect children from polio is vaccination,’ stressed UNICEF’s representative in Ukraine, Giovanna Barberis, in a press release. ‘The available vaccines supplied by UNICEF should be used as soon as possible to ensure children are protected from polio in Ukraine.’5 

The world’s major media sources are taking their cues directly from the WHO without even bothering to ask the painfully obvious question, “Isn’t it a serious problem when you have vaccines causing viruses to mutate and become more dangerous than the original viruses they were designed to protect against?” The second paragraph of the Reuters story by Tom Miles, for example, reads, “The WHO said Ukraine had been at particular risk of an outbreak because of inadequate vaccination coverage. In 2014, only 50 percent of children were fully immunized against polio and other preventable diseases, it said.”6 

The second paragraph of the Associated Press (AP) story reads, “Health officials have warned for years that Ukraine was at risk of a polio epidemic because of low vaccination rates. The supply of vaccine has been spotty because of corruption and inefficiency, and many parents resist vaccinating their children because of fears about the procedure.” Another version goes, “Health officials had warned Ukraine was at high risk of a polio outbreak due to its low vaccination rates; only half of children were immunized against diseases like polio last year.”

So naturally many major newspapers simply reprint this and disseminate it to their audiences, stamping the piece with their own unique headline. There’s the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s “Ukraine: sufficient vaccine coming to block polio outbreak.”7  There’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s “World Health Organization: 2 polio cases found in Ukraine, caused by mutated virus in vaccine.”8 

Then there are those publications like Forbes that actually go to the trouble of writing their own story, using the material provided by the WHO and the AP. They not only repeat the party line within their article, but actually feature it in their headline: “Polio Outbreak In Ukraine Is Grim Reminder Of Need For Continued Vigilance.”9 

Predictably, the second paragraph reads:

The outbreak in Ukraine arose from vaccinations in country, World Health Organization spokesman Oliver Rosenbauer explained by email, ‘This strain arose in Ukraine, due to significant vaccination coverage gaps in the country. As many as 50% of children are under- or unimmunized, so there are many susceptible children, and this increases the risk of polio re-emerging or being re-introduced. This further underscores the danger of polio until it is eradicated completely. The best thing countries can do to protect themselves is to maintain high vaccination coverage.’9 

To his credit, Donald G. McNeil Jr. of The New York Times started his piece “Polio Paralyzes 2 Children in West Ukraine Outbreak” with a more substantive focus. The third and fourth paragraph go as follows:

The two children, an infant and a 4-year-old, were not paralyzed by the “wild-type virus” that is now known to be circulating only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but by a strain derived from the oral polio vaccine itself.10 

The oral vaccine contains three strains of weakened live virus, and very occasionally—the WHO estimates it as once in a million vaccinations—one mutates to become more virulent. Then, like wild virus, it can be shed in feces and spread to others in sewage.10 

Ironically, despite the WHO’s confirmation, it’s not even clear yet that the two cases in Ukraine are polio. A Russia Today (RT) report cites local authorities in the country as denying a “definitive diagnosis” of polio. According to RT:

[The polio diagnosis] ‘was not confirmed’ by medical trials in Kiev and Moscow. Regional officials told Ukrainian media the symptoms only ‘resembled’ polio, but it could in fact be acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), recorded in the region up to five times on a yearly basis.

Thus, it appears the WHO is both emphasizing the wrong point and may be jumping the gun a bit on this story. Meanwhile, the corporate media follows along passively.

Note: For the Spanish translation of this article, see “La OMS informa de dos casos de Poliovirus derivado de la Vacuna en Ucrania” in Argentina sin Vacunas.


One Response to WHO Reports Two Cases of Vaccine-Derived Poliovirus in Ukraine

  1. Melissa Reply

    September 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    I really love this article, but it makes it a little difficult to take the content seriously with you calling Ukraine “the Ukraine”. It’s not correct.

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