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About 4-5% of Bulgarians get flu vaccine

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  • About 4-5% of Bulgarians get flu vaccine

    11 January 2009 | 09:30 | FOCUS News Agency

    Doctor Angel Kunchev, chief of the Infectious Diseases Control department to the Healthcare Ministry, comments on the risks of influenza epidemics in Bulgaria, in interview to FOCUS News Agency

    Focus: Doctor Kunchev, will Bulgaria be soon hit by influenza epidemic?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: There is real risk of influenza epidemic. We expect for the epidemic to seize Bulgaria in the end of the months. The prognosis is grounded on up-to-date statistical data, as there is some kind of outbreak of flue epidemic in the most Western parts of the continent. Generally, three to four weeks are needed for the outbreak of flue to reach the Balkans and Bulgaria. Thus, we believe that the flue will set foot in the country by end-January.

    Focus: Is there already flue epidemic somewhere else?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: There is no absolute flue outbreak registered anywhere yet. There is high sick rate registered in Portugal, which could be said to be on the edge of epidemics. There is also high sick rate in the UK and Spain.
    It is something normal for this time of the year. 90% of the cases registered occur in this time of the year end-January or early February.

    Focus: What measures could be taken?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: Trying to restrict the flue epidemic is a really hard task, which is almost impossible to achieve. There is one thing that could help for certain the flue vaccine, which I highly recommend to Bulgarians.

    Focus: How many people get a flu vaccine in Bulgaria?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: According to the data on flue vaccines import, about 4-5% of the Bulgarian population get flue vaccine. It is not for the total rate that matters most but the coverage of the risky groups. These are people aged over 65, and those who suffer long-lasting illnesses. However, these two groups usually coincide.
    In relation to this, Id like to mention that this year, for the first time we managed to buy 25,000 dozes of the vaccine, which were used in social homes for retired people, as there is no one else to provide the elder people with them.

    Focus: How much money does the Healthcare Ministry allocate for flue vaccines?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: I cannot tell any concrete sum. At the free market, a flue vaccine costs about BGN 11 12. The ministry, of course, buys the vaccines at a lower price. I think less then BGN 200,000 was paid for these 25,000 vaccines.

    Focus: Isnt the rate of 4-5% too low?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: Yes, it is. Of course, we should bear in mind the fact that the flue vaccine is not obligatory. It is a matter of personal decision. We have to notice the good practices not only in Europe, but also in the USA, Australia and Canada, where the rate of people getting a flue vaccine is very high and the effect is felt. It is the only effective means against flue. The rest of the advices and measures against the flue such as avoid contacts with other people and etc., is less workable.

    Focus: Do you have any data about the rate of people getting flue vaccine in other countries?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: I have some rough data about the situation in other countries. As I said, it is not for the number of people that matters most but the coverage of the risky groups. Over the last years, the World Health Organization set the goal for the number of people with flue vaccine to reach 90%. It is a really high rate but some countries are getting really close to it. France, the Netherlands, the UK and Germany, reach up to 80-85%. In Bulgaria, however, the rate is really low.

    Focus: Are the 25,000 flue vaccines bought by the Healthcare Ministry enough to meet the demand?
    Dr. Angel Kunchev: It depends on the criteria. We could say there are enough if we secure a vaccine to everyone who needs it, which however is not the case here. Anyway, as a first step made on the issue, it is a positive tendency. Up to the present moment, no one has ever bothered to provide flue vaccines to anybody, apart form certain companies, which secure vaccines to their employees, as they consider it a profitable expense.

    Lyudmila SPASOVA
    "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation