Check the Ukrainian version of the article here
Vaccination from COVID-19 is a hot topic today as countries struggle to keep the spread of the virus under control and protect their people. To put it simply – vaccines today are considered to be the most effective tool in an ongoing fight with the threat of the global coronavirus pandemic as a counter to temporary measures like lockdowns or social distancing rules. While some countries urge mass vaccination and want to speed up the process, Ukraine stays behind in terms of how fast and how big it will be for the its population.
How Ukraine survives coronavirus, and what we know about vaccination dynamics in the country? Can it be more effective? To answer this question, BDO Centers LLC conducted a research in January 2021, which was presented in parliament during a press-conference about vaccination and later distributed among members of the Committee on Public Health, Medical Assistance and Medical Insurance. It is a pro bono initiative with a main purpose to support an informed discussion.
You can check the original reports in English and in Ukrainian with data for January, while here are the answers to the mentioned questions, with the latest updates as of March 2021, to help you get a full picture.
How did Ukraine and Ukrainians live through COVID-19 last year?
It all started with infected people coming to Ukraine from other countries. But it's how people behaved that made the pandemic worse to the extent of nationwide lockdown becoming the only means to withhold it. Due to the low level of epidemic discipline among hidden spreaders, who had the virus but didn’t have symptoms, as well as those who were well aware of being sick but still didn’t self-isolate, the country saw a surge in the number of cases.
To be fair, Ukraine is not the only country where people were breaking the epidemic rules, but it was combined with the low amount of tests and greatly increased pressure on the medical system. This only made the situation worse.
How well prepared is a Ukrainian medical system for COVID-19 a year later?
As of March 2021, Ukraine had 520 hospitals, 134,2 thousand hospital beds, 3.132 medical teams, 4.748 lungs ventilation machines, 61,3 thousand beds for COVID-19 patients, around 58,7 thousand doctors with 7,7 thousand of them being infectious disease specialists, therapists and pediatricians.
This is the capacity of the Ukrainian medical system, while the number of COVID-19 patients at the same time period was almost 263 316 people. Overall more than 1,6 million people in Ukraine were infected with the virus, and 31 thousand people died from it, as of 22 March 2021.
Who are the people suffering from the virus in Ukraine?
As of December 2020, almost 60% of all the people suffering from COVID-19 are in the age group of 30-59, and the second largest group is 60-79 years old with 23,8% of all the patients with COVID-19. Overall, as of October 2020, 2,7% of the Ukrainian population was infected with COVID-19 and 0,05% of the population died from it. By March 2021, these numbers increased to 3,8% and 0,07%, respectively.
People aged 50 to 80+ years are in the risk group, as 93% of patients who died because of COVID-19 in Ukraine belong to this age range. Overall, 37% of Ukrainians are aged 50 to 80+. That is 15,7 million people.
Though in December, the Ministry of Health estimated that 21 million people belong to a high risk group and need to be vaccinated as soon as possible. But these numbers reflect only the number of people who have a higher risk of having severe COVID-19 case to the point of being lethal. At the same time, we also should keep in mind that another large affected group are people, who need medical attention, but can't get it due to the medical system overload.
How can countries battle the virus that is persistent and fast spreading?
Vaccination is considered today by many to be the most effective way of responding to the challenge of COVID-19. According to the researchers, it makes a person more resilient towards the virus and is more effective than immunity you might gain in a natural way. A person needs to be vaccinated with two doses to make it work.
Some people believe that herd immunity will protect them even if they are not vaccinated. Well, according to the World Health Organization, 65% of people have to be vaccinated for herd immunity to take place and protect the rest of the population. For Ukraine, this is roughly 27 million people.
What is the plan for vaccination in Ukraine?
Ukraine has already developed its vaccination roadmap that will consist of 4 stages and will last till March 2022.
On the first stage 1-10% of the population will be vaccinated and these are people with a critically high risk of getting COVID-19 and those who are critical to continue fighting with the virus. The stage takes place from January 2021 till April 2021.
On the second stage 11-20% of people planned to be vaccinated. These are people who have a high risk of getting sick and medical staff. The stage takes place from April 2021 till June 2021.
Third and four stages are almost identical. During these stages more people with high risk for COVID-19 as well as those who maintain functions for state safety and wellbeing should be vaccinated.
To facilitate the process, Ukraine has 11 346 vaccination centers and will create additional 400 mobile brigades and temporary centers. Family doctors will also vaccinate patients. It is expected that Ukraine will have 2 million vaccinations per week.
Are people ready to get vaccines?
There is still work to be done in persuading Ukrainians of the benefits of vaccination. The study made in November 2020 by Research & Branding Group showed that only 31% of responders were ready for vaccination. Another research by Rating Sociological Group made in December 2020 showed that in case of free vaccination 40% of people would refuse, and if vaccination were to be fee-based – 57% of people would refuse.
Also, based on the survey conducted by the Razumkov Centre in March 2021, 51,5% of respondents answered that they are not ready to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Among those who plan to vaccinate, 52% are would agree to vaccination only if it was free-based, and 22,5% want to pay for the vaccination.
To increase the number of people who would get vaccinated, the state could launch a national campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination. It may consist of a multimedia campaign with experts and additional steps with spreading information in the communities, as well as a mobile application for a free consultation about vaccination and the ability to register for one.
The remaining question is – how fast will people get the vaccine?
What is the current state of progress with COVID-19 vaccines?
As of 22 March 2021, 133 countries have administered over 447 million vaccine doses, while 10,6 billion doses were pre-ordered across the globe. There are seven vaccines already approved for full use, six vaccines in early or limited use and more vaccines currently undergoing tests while waiting to be approved.
Overall, just in the 1H2021, it is planned to produce almost 8 billion doses of vaccines (the number is all available vaccines combined). Meanwhile, developing countries are expected to get vaccines in 2023-2024.
Will Ukraine get vaccines before the year 2023?
Ukraine became a part of the global COVAX program. It allows getting 16 million doses of vaccines for free, which is enough for 8 million people to be vaccinated. Vaccines are to be delivered in 1H 2021. In addition, the government will spend 86.6 million euros from the state budget to buy additional doses of vaccines. But full vaccination will cost 433 million euros for the state budget.
There is another obstacle, even more challenging than money, that impacts a country's progress in getting vaccines – the logistics complications. Vaccines need to be kept in an ultralow temperature environment, in some cases reaching -70°C, depending on the vaccine. Same conditions have to be maintained during transportation. In the closed packages with dry ice, vaccines have to be delivered to the vaccination center in 10 days time. After that, it can only remain five days in the vaccination center fridge with the temperature range of -2°C to -8°C (temperature regime for Moderna taken as an example).
How does Ukraine address logistic issues and what other countries do?
Authorities already started to take some actions to solve the mentioned problem with vaccines transportation and keeping requirements. A special center for keeping up to 250 thousands of vaccine doses will be created next to Boryspil National Airport. "Mriya" plane will be shared with other countries to provide faster delivery of large number of doses across the world, Ukraine included. And as for safekeeping conditions – currently, Ukraine has enough room to store 12 million vaccine doses that require +2-8°С, 340 thousands of vaccine doses that require -20°С and 57 thousands of doses that need temperatures of -70°С.
Meanwhile, in Germany, for example, the state began to invite private companies to assist with solving the very same logistic and safekeeping issues. Germany has already built new vaccination centres, while Lufthansa Cargo, Frankfurt Airport and Kuehne+Nagel created a capacity to maintain required temperature control in its facilities, and va-Q-tec company will provide 1.000 of highly efficient transporting containers to one of the pharmaceutical groups. At the same time, DHL will provide its services for Lower Saxony territory in Germany. This includes transportation and keeping of the vaccines. Overall, Germany plans to vaccinate all of the population in one year's time.
At the same time, USA private companies also join the fight by creating applications that help to make vaccination faster, improve the distribution process and help to diagnose COVID-19.
What should be done to make the vaccination process more efficient in Ukraine?
Action plan, created by BDO Centers LLC experts consists of several steps that could improve the existing state of affairs:
Use diverse vaccine portfolio and negotiate cost cuts with providers.
Discuss with the COVAX possibility of increasing the amount of free doses sent to Ukraine and persuade local big businesses to fund employee vaccination.
Create a detailed plan for vaccine transportation.
Buy more required equipment for vaccine keeping.
Create vaccination plan for remote places and villages that will include the participation of social workers and mobile vaccination stations.
Increase people's awareness of vaccination via different means of communication.
Ukraine also could include Ukrzaliznytsia, Ukrposhta and Armed forces in the process of vaccine distribution and keeping to improve the overall process. Another valuable option – cooperation with private logistical operators as they have facilities up to date with vaccine keeping requirements. Furthermore, all trucks used for vaccine transportation should have an emergency button to use in the case of car accidents. There should also be a mobile application that will manage patients data and will improve cooperation between local and central authorities.
Lastly, the government should create a complex strategy for transportation and vaccination processes that will include all of the steps above as tools for overcoming major obstacles on the way to successful vaccination of people.
What you should know about this research
This research is not aimed to make a certain statement for vaccination or against vaccination. The main aim is to share the work of BDO Centers LLC, which can help Ukrainians to support the necessary intellectual discussions regarding COVID-19 vaccination.
BDO Centers LLC is a Kyiv based consulting practice with a focus on professional services. BDO Centers develops and scales innovations in support of the largest and most diversified group of strategy, consulting, digital, audit, tax, and operations professionals in the world. Drawing on a combination of industry and functional expertise, the company supports service processes for Marketing, Sales Enablement, Corporate Communications, Social Media, Events, Strategy and Business Consulting. Engineered to facilitate an increase in client centricity, the agile and cross-functional BDO Centers team provides strategic and operational value creation to accompany the full client journey.
In case of any questions you can contact BDO Centers LLC here.