“We note a great interest in the free flu vaccines provided by the state for the population over 65 years of age”, said Assoc. Dr. Angel Kunchev, Chief State Health Inspector at a joint press conference of the BLS, the non-governmental sector and the Bulgarian health authorities on the occasion of the upcoming World Health Week to combat antibiotic resistance. Vaccines protect against infectious diseases to which people are immune. This protection reduces the risk of infections that create conditions for the spread of pathogenic microorganisms. The herd immunity created by vaccines reduces the incidence of infectious diseases that can to enforce the use of antibiotics, and this has a direct effect on the emergence of antimicrobial resistance.
Experts have warned that at the beginning of next year, the peak of the flu wave can be expected, with a severe course in the risk groups. In the last two or three years, people have not encountered the influenza virus en masse, and this is the reason for the decline in the natural population immunity against the seasonal flu. This fact may lead to even greater unpredictability regarding the timing and scale of influenza virus circulation.
At the moment, we do not have isolated influenza viruses among the samples we receive from the medical facilities in the country, but there is an increase in acute respiratory infections and a decrease in the frequency of cases of COVID-19. After the peak on October 27, they have now dropped to about 40 cases per 100,000 people. Only three districts – Pernik, Ruse and Sliven districts – the cases are well above the average for the country. This was said by Prof. Dr. Iva Hristova, director of the National Center for Infectious and Parasitic Diseases. She urged people to get vaccinated against influenza because the vaccines contain all the strains that have circulated this year in the Southern Hemisphere, and at the same time, although low, the continued circulation of SARS-CoV-2 viruses creates a risk of co-infection with influenza viruses , when the risk of complications increases significantly. She also noted that there is currently an increase in cases of acute respiratory diseases, with 3,100 registered for the last week, or an average of 83 per 10,000 for the country. Over 200/10,000 cases are registered in Pazardzhik, Ruse and Gabrovo. Adenoviruses and rhinoviruses are most often isolated, mainly in young children and young people. She reminded again that antibiotics should not be prescribed for viral diseases. Apart from not helping with viral infections, they significantly contribute to increasing antimicrobial resistance, an indicator for which Bulgaria ranks among the countries with the highest levels of AMR. Hospitals that have programs for the correct antibiotic policy demonstrate a reduction in resistant strains.
“Influenza is a serious infectious disease. Therefore, it is better to protect ourselves from it than to hope that it will pass easily. The public should be informed about the benefits of vaccines against seasonal flu, which can prevent severe complications, deaths and the need for hospital treatment due to influenza. This applies with particular force to the older population, who, due to their weakened immunity and accompanying chronic diseases, fall into the highest risk groups. This year, the state has provided over 300,000 free doses of the flu vaccine for Bulgarian pensioners .
and I am extremely happy with the fact that over 85% of them have already been added. Thanks to the national seasonal flu vaccination program for the population aged 65 and over, about 14% of pensioners in the country have already been vaccinated,” shared Dr. Valeri Tsekov, manager of the Bulgarian Association for Innovative Medicine.
“I am very glad that together we are all working to raise the awareness of the Bulgarian society about the flu and the seriousness of the disease. According to the behavior of my patients, this joint work of ours is already yielding results, as people at the age of 65 are proactively looking for their free flu vaccines . In my practice, I have more and more cases where young patients buy vaccines themselves from pharmacies because they see that their parents’ vaccination is effective. For us general practitioners, it is much more important and easier to work on prevention than for the treatment of one disease. We must not forget that the flu can be severe, with many complications that can literally affect any organ or system, and above all – complications of worsening chronic diseases. That is why I call on Bulgarian pensioners to get vaccinated at your personal doctors,” said Dr. Gergana Nikolova, member of the Board of the Bulgarian Medical Union.
On the occasion of the upcoming World Antibiotic Resistance Week, Dr. Tsekov reminded that antibiotics should only be used when prescribed by a doctor and the recommendation for their intake should be strictly followed. Improper and careless antibiotic use is the main cause of increasing antimicrobial resistance. Against the backdrop of the lack of new antibiotic molecules, increased AMP puts us at serious risk of becoming powerless against infections with antibiotic-resistant microorganisms very soon. This is where vaccines come to our aid, which greatly limit the diseases against which they are administered, and this reduces the number of infections and the need for antibiotic treatment. In this way, the creation of resistant strains can be greatly reduced. An example of this is vaccines against pneumococcal diseases, which are most often the cause of severe and dangerous infections in children and adults over 65 years of age, for which long-term antibiotic treatment is required.
Primary disease prevention through vaccination is one of the important ways to reduce antimicrobial resistance. As a good example of the state’s sustainable policy in this area, he pointed to the new National Program for Improving Vaccination Prevention of Seasonal Flu and Pneumococcal Infections in Persons 65 and Over, which annually increases the immunization coverage with vaccines against seasonal flu among the target group, and now it also adds the possibility of free immunization against pneumococcal diseases, burgas24.bg reported.
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