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Initiative for improving vaccination coverage in Bulgaria

Momchil Baev

Initiative for improving the vaccination coverage in Bulgaria through creating a crisis communication strategy and working with non-emergency healthcare professionals in the country

Current state

After two years of fighting the pandemic and more than a year since administering the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in Bulgaria, the country is at the bottom of statistics in terms of vaccination coverage. About 30% of the population has received at least one dose of the approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Society is divided over vaccines against the disease due to the spread of fake news and misinformation that floods the audience from the media and social networks. The human resources in the healthcare system are insufficient to react properly and are extremely tired.

COVID-19 is a crisis of unknown proportions and it requires crisis interventions. Among the main risks in any crisis is its inadequate communication or the lack of a strategic communication management plan. On December 4, 2020, the Ministry of Health adopted the National Vaccination Plan against COVID-19 in the Republic of Bulgaria, which failed to achieve its mission and goal. The main shortcoming of the Plan is the lack of a Communication Strategy to it, which would pave the way for proper and timely communication with society in a way that health authorities are trusted by citizens and health professionals.

Actions taken

To meet this challenge, we have been working with the Ministry of Health and other health authorities since the beginning of the pandemic, which culminated in a specific initiative to increase vaccination coverage against COVID-19 in Bulgaria. In early October 2021, we signed an agreement with the Ministry, which began drafting a National Communication Strategy for COVID-19 and the vaccines against the disease, as well as targeted work with general practitioners (GPs) in all 28 provinces of the country.

Based on the understanding that non-emergency healthcare professionals and GPs in particular should be the main pillar in the country’s vaccination policy, we are preparing professional discussions for these specialists in all 28 provinces of the country. Historically, GPs have always had the primary responsibility for administering vaccines to the population, but this is not sufficient for COVID-19 vaccines. For the purposes of the discussions, we are developing a specialized handbook for non-emergency healthcare workers, which is based on materials and expertise of the WHO and UNICEF, whose national offices in Bulgaria are partners in this initiative.

With an extremely high frequency, our team receives reports of GPs telling their patients “for now” not to get vaccinated, to wait or not to do so at all, because it is a health risk. All the scientific evidence refutes this, and vaccines remain our only way to fight the pandemic. In discussions with non-emergency healthcare workers, we will address all topics related to immunity, concomitant and chronic diseases of patients that cause their hesitations, common myths and false claims about vaccines, as well as specific methods of communication of vaccines with patients.

Financial support

Support for the Astra Forum Foundation within this initiative is provided by the America for Bulgaria Foundation. The statements and opinions expressed herein belong solely to the Astra Forum Foundation and do not necessarily reflect the views of the America Foundation for Bulgaria or its partners.

The America for Bulgaria Foundation (ABF) is an independent, nonpartisan, and nonpolitical American grant-making foundation working in partnership with Bulgarians to strengthen the country’s private sector and related democratic institutions. The America for Bulgaria Foundation builds on the success of the Bulgarian-American Enterprise Fund, an investment fund created in 1991 by the U.S. Congress with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development. More information is available on:

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