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Seminar on immunisation problems in Burgas

The discussion on “Communication between doctors and patients on immunization issues” brought together specialists in pre-hospital care and employees of Burgas Regional Health Inspectorate on a hot day in June (23.06.2022). The event was opened by Dr. Momchil Baev, Chairman of the Astra Forum Foundation.

Epidemiologist  Prof. Mira Kozhuharova presented to the audience up-to-date information about the immunization coverage of the population in Bulgaria in terms of mandatory vaccines, noting the downward trend in recent years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of immunization coverage Bulgaria is no exception, as the problem is observed everywhere.

Prof. Kozhuharova spoke about the importance of following up on missed or delayed vaccinations in order to minimize the risk of outbreaks of relevant infectious diseases. Prof. Kozhuharova shared her concern over recent anti-vaccine talk directed not only at COVID-19 vaccines, but against immunizations in general. She urged professionals to make an effort to counter the anti-vaccine propaganda. This requires good training on the subject as well as increased communication with patients. Attention was drawn to basic concepts in vaccine prophylaxis with a focus on the importance of collective immunity for public health.

The situation with vaccination coverage in Burgas district was analysed. Vaccination coverage in Burgas district reflects the situation across the whole country. Vaccination coverage of over 95% has been achieved only for the tuberculosis vaccine.  Possible reasons for parents’ refusal to have their children immunised were discussed.

At the end of her presentation Prof. Kozhuharova addressed the situation with Ukrainian refugees and determining their vaccination status as well as the need to ensure that they receive any missing immunizations. As there is a large number of Ukrainian citizens in Burgas region, the doctors and specialists from the Regional Health Inspectorate who attended the meeting shared their personal impressions and common problems in their communication with refugees in various health cases. Prof. Kozhuharova offered valuable advice and guidelines for working with the refugees.

Clinical psychologist Dimitar Nedelchev focused his presentation on motivational interviewing as one of the dynamically developing modern therapeutic approaches. Initially created as a therapeutic approach for working with people with alcohol problems, motivational interviewing is rapidly expanding its scope of application. Today it is used not only to combat addiction, but also at probation and correctional departments; in centers for rehabilitation of somatic diseases related to behaviour change, psychiatric clinics, etc.

The purpose of the presentation was to present before the audience the basics and principles of motivational interviewing. These include the unique style of conducting the interview with the collaboration of the client/patient and therapist and using the specific techniques for successful motivational interviewing. The essence of the method involves purposefully asking open-ended questions, listening reflectively, giving support, and making generalizations. The audience was also introduced to the 10 main elements of motivational interviewing and the way to approach clients/patients. The “Elicit – Provide – Elicit” technique of motivational interviewing was presented. In addition to the theoretical presentation of the method, a practical demonstration was also held before the audience. After the presentation and demonstration, there was a Q&A session and a discussion about the way physicians approach patients with regard to vaccination.

The event is part of a national initiative of the Astra Forum Foundation and is supported by the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the WHO and UNICEF offices in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Association for Innovative Medicine, ArFarm and in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Bulgarian Medical Association and the national association of GPs in Bulgaria.

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