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Immunisation Week in Bosnia and Herzegovina

© UNICEF BiH / Semir Mujkic / 2009

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina - May 2009

The Public Health Institutes of Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska, supported by UNICEF and WHO, have jointly marked the European Immunisation Week in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 27th April to 2nd May 2009, through the series of activities aiming to underline the importance of immunisation, and decrease the impact of anti – vaccines movement in BiH.

The central event was the Round Table “Immunisation – a great achievement of the civilisation”, that assembled for the first time together the health professionals and the media.
It began with a discussion, followed by the training on crisis communication for health professionals, press conference and dissemination of information materials.

The anti – vaccines movement in BiH leveled accusations against entity institutes and UNICEF, stating that the donated vaccines from 2002 had a negative impact on children’s health. While these allegations were never proven, they have significantly contributed to a drop in the rate of vaccinated children

“The annual average of 0.01 reported vaccination side effects are clear indication that the supplied vaccines were in good order. However this pressure caused doubts to appear even among the physicians who were carrying out immunisation and also among parents”, said Jelena Ravlija, EPI Coordinator with the Federal Public Health Institute, during the round table discussion on this issue.

Physician Amira Skaka, illustrated the importance of immunisation using an illuminating example from the wartime. “Early in the war, in 1992, our immunisation rate was 99 percent, and during the war we did not have a single epidemic”, Skaka related.

Smail Zubčević PhD, believed that the increasing lack of trust in immunisation among parents was largely a responsibility of the pediatricians. “The issue is a lack of communication between the pediatricians and the parents. Today, the pediatricians have a hundred patients per day and merely have three minutes for each patient, which is certainly not enough to have a discussion.”, Zubčević said.

“The times we live are different from the times we grew up in”, said the reporter, Jelena Lugonja-Kisić. “In my time, there was no question that my parents would take me to the pediatrician for vaccination without having any second thoughts. Today, however, we are exposed to a great number of conflicting information so is quite logical that I will think twice before I take my child for a vaccine after I read some articles against vaccines. I am definitely FOR the immunisation, but this requires a change in the attitude of physicians toward parents. We cannot expect their relationship to remain passive like some twenty years ago.”, she added.

Marin Kvaternik, an epidemiologist and the former RS Minister of Health, said, “ We immunise people against diseases that are never actually visible precisely because of the vaccine. There have to be some reserves regarding vaccines – but we cannot say we will stop using electricity because it can kill.”
Zlatko Vučina, Director of the Public Health Institute of FBiH, presented the materials developed with UNICEF’s support, aimed at informing the parents, media and health professionals on immunisation.

The first working day of the European Immunisation Week ended with a press conference at which discussion conclusions were presented and the rest of activities in the Immunisation Week were announced. The plan was to organise similar round tables and trainings in all the regions of BiH in order to ensure consistency in the communication between health professionals and reporters and to improve the quality of reporting on immunisation.



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