Health minister slams GPs for not having relevant information on swine flu

Dana Jurásková, photo: CTK

Vaccination against swine flu has been underway in the Czech Republic for two weeks, but, perhaps surprisingly, interest in the vaccine has not been high. It seems doctors themselves are not interested in getting inoculated either – a poll released last week suggested that a majority of general practitioners had no interest in getting the vaccine; they say that either vaccination had come too late in the face of the growing epidemic or even that the vaccine had not been tested enough. Now the health minister has rejected such claims, slamming sceptics for having too little information.

Dana Jurásková,  photo: CTK
The swine flu has reached epidemic proportions in four of 14 regions in the Czech Republic and the number of cases in the coming days is only expected to rise; yet even now many health professionals simply are not worried. Despite being among the first eligible to receive vaccination against the disease, along with the chronically ill, children over the age of ten, and pregnant women, many GPs will not be getting the shot. That was suggested in a poll by the Aspectio agency released last week, In the poll, a majority said they considered swine flu a media “bubble” – although only a sixth of the 440 or so queried said explicitly they wouldn’t recommended the vaccine to patients. On Sunday, those views provoked sharp reaction from the health minister, Dana Jurásková, who slammed GPs for simply not knowing the facts.

“I am going to speak on the level and say that I think this is the influence of the media as well as of some so-called epidemiologists and vaccine specialists presented alongside health officials… When it comes to the media, information is often presented out of context. If we consider the poll, let me say that many GPs are professionals that don’t have the facts and don’t even look for them. It might interest you to know that 60 percent of them don’t log onto the internet and therefore can’t even access information on the pandemic on our website.”

And, according to the health minister, the decision by GPs to not get the swine flu shot has an overall negative effect.

“I don’t want to suggest GPs would be doing this on purpose, but they don’t realise that their opinion affects the behaviour of their patients.”

Photo: CTK
As it stands, one million people (a tenth of the Czech population) are eligible for a jab against swine flu and are recommended to do so if they can - with the health minister stating on Sunday that of those who had received the vaccination in the Czech Republic, none had not suffered any serious side effects. Officials expect the swine flu epidemic will hit its peak in the Czech Republic in mid to late December.