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Sliven - last seminar for the season

On 19.07, in the hall of the Regional Health Inspectorate in Sliven was held the last seminar of the season for general practitioners and specialists. The event was initiated by the Astra Forum Foundation and is part of a national programme to increase immunisation coverage in Bulgaria.

Speakers at the event were Dr. Mira Kozhuharova, epidemiologist, and Dr. Georgi Vassilev, psychiatrist.

In his opening address, Dr. Momchil Baev, Chairman of the Astra Forum Foundation, drew attention to the fact that the overlapping crises, the new wave of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and the Ukrainian refugee crisis, are a serious challenge to our health system. The joint efforts of institutions, professionals and society are needed to address these crises.

The lecture part was opened by prof.  Kozhuharova, who presented detailed information on the vaccines included in the Bulgarian immunization calendar, as well as data on the vaccination coverage for each vaccine in recent years. She shared her concern about the decrease in immunization rates both globally and within Bulgaria. This is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and missed vaccinations should be administered.

Dr. Kozhuharova also addressed the problem of anti-vaccination movements that have spread recently. She advised professionals to be well prepared on the subject of vaccinology and recommended proper communication between doctors and patients. She affirmed that vaccines are one of the most researched drugs in terms of their safety. “The worst thing about a vaccine could be that it is not sufficiently effective,” added Prof. Kozhuharova.

Attention was drawn to the importance of collective immunity, which is achieved with a high vaccination status of the population and leads to a strong reduction in the transmission of infectious diseases.

The audience took part in a discussion and some major concerns of local doctors regarding vaccinations were shared, highlighting the problem with vulnerable population groups.

The focus of Dr. Vassilev’s presentation was the application of the method of motivational interviewing to address patients’ vaccine hesitancy. He talked about the successful implementation of this approach, used for various other health problems, in convincing the patient about the need for vaccination.

The basic steps in changing the approach to communicate with the patient were outlined. Emphasis was placed on having a conversation about change, defining a particular task, and building a partnership between doctor and patient.

Several categories of so-called “difficult patients” were defined, and Dr. Vassilev spoke about various techniques for successful communication with them.

The lecture ended with a practical demonstration of the motivational interviewing method, reinforcing conclusions drawn from the presentation.

The Astra Forum Foundation would like to thank the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the WHO and UNICEF offices in Bulgaria, the Ministry of Health, the Bulgarian Medical Association, the National Association of General Practitioners in Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Association for Innovative Medicine and ArPharm for their support and partnership in organizing all the training seminars held so far as part of a national program to increase immunization coverage in Bulgaria.

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