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Is flu vaccination necessary and will there be epidemic: Interview with Belarusian First Deputy Minister of Health

Among the threats, there are various illnesses. Sometimes it is possible to do a vaccination to protect yourself from illnesses. Sometimes it is just enough to lead a healthy way of life. We are responsible for our health. However, a healthcare system exists in Belarus, and there are a lot of questions addressed to it. Dmitry Pinevich, First Deputy Minister of Health has answered some question of the program Picture of the World on the CTV Channel.

Mr Pinevich, welcome to the program. When we say hello, we also wish good health to each other. Are Belarusians generally a healthy nation? Can we be compared with Russians, Germans, Americans?

Dmitry Pinevich, First Deputy Minister of Health of the Republic of Belarus:
I think we are more or less on equal footing. The number of illnesses is rising. This is due to the fact that we live longer. This is the first thing. But we are better in diagnosing. As they say, all people with good health are people who were not carefully looked at by the doctor. In every joke there is some sort of truth. We are inferior to European nations in terms of life expectancy. And so this is our main task, the task of our health and also social institutions. And the quality of life should also be in the center of attention.

Belarusians take lots of drugs. It seems to me. It's hard to compare. Although there are statistics. In the US, the average per-capita expenditure on drugs is $1,000 per year, in France and Germany - about 600, Latvia and Poland - 300. In Belarus it is probably less than in Latvia and Poland?

Dmitry Pinevich:
We count in dollars. If we calculate arithmetically, we will get about $70 per person per year. But it is connected with the cost factor. Our costs, even in comparison with the Russian Federation, are 1.5-2 times lower. Now this trend has leveled a bit. The difference in the cost of drugs abroad and in Belarus is disappearing. I think that it will soon be reduced to zero.

Medicines are used to escape or protect oneself from some illness. What diseases now threaten Belarusians most?

Dmitry Pinevich:
If we take the structure of mortality, diseases of the cardiovascular system are the first.

Heart attacks, strokes.

Dmitry Pinevich:
This is true. Oncology, injuries and poisoning. There are now new global threats that are discussed at the level of the WHO - the epidemic of HIV and tuberculosis. For us it is not so much a problem of morbidity but resistance.

The last session of the Belarusian parliament of the fifth convocation. I worked in this structure. And you were at the session of the Council. We ratified the agreement on cooperation between Belarus and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. They allocated lots of money to Belarus, don't they?

Dmitry Pinevich:
We have been working with them for more than 12 years. With this new grant, we have received $120 million. Now we are approving the grant. More than $24 million is allocated by the Global Fund. Very important is the fact that the Global Fund's donors are different. These are both countries and large corporations.

Are we also donors? Do we pay?

Dmitry Pinevich:
No, we do not pay. Moreover, we have previously received grants from the Global Fund due to the fact that we are a country with a low level of economic development, social institutions. Let's say, the third world. Now the situation has improved but due to the fact that previous grants and work with the Global Fund structures earned positive reviews, it was decided to extend these grants until 2018.

You mentioned cancer and diabetes among the primary reasons for death. But not AIDS. Why is AIDS considered a plague of the twentieth century and the 21st century? It turns out that not that many people die from it if we compare with other diseases. Huge money is allocated.

Dmitry Pinevich:
Firstly, AIDS is a disease that is transmitted. Therefore, international organizations are interested in ending the epidemic itself. Working with international organizations on HIV allows us to develop our own drugs. We have recently developed a drug helping in heart attacks. When it occurs, the ambulance can within an hour reach the lab, it is given to a patient and the clot dissolves, heart attack is over. In the past, when people endured a heart attack, they had to lie in bed. For almost a month. And then six months we taught a person to walk. Now the rehabilitation takes about a week.

Flu. Now the season is coming for it. We begin to make vaccines. Returning to medicines. If the vaccine is not French, but Russian or Chinese, we won't give allow vaccination. Go back to Belarusian medicines. There is a psychological barrier, when a man thinks that if this medicine was produced in Germany, it will help me. And really helps. If he reads that there is a country he does not trust, this medicine does not work.

Dmitry Pinevich:
Of course it does matter where the pill is made.

Let's talk about vaccination against influenza. What worries people right now. Have you yourself undergone vaccination?

Dmitry Pinevich:
No, I will do it on Monday. I do vaccinations, because they help overcome the illness more easily.

What vaccine?

Dmitry Pinevich:
Petrovax, St. Petersburg vaccine. Cleaned, brought by Belmedpreparaty. Everything that we buy, believe me, goes through our lab and undergoes tight control. The resonant case happened in Grodno, that poor girl. When we conduct a vaccination campaign, we look very carefully at each drug, be it Belarusian or imported.

Let's go back to the flu. Will there be a flu epidemic this year? You predicted that, didn't you? And what flu?

Dmitry Pinevich:
The epidemic rise is predicted by the end of January, as usual, or in February. Not earlier. It is going to have the same strains of influenza virus that we expect and have in this vaccination. After all, when we vaccinate people, we can't predict everything.

I therefore ask, why should we do that? I'm not making someone to do it, I am just interested.

Dmitry Pinevich:
Quite true. In 90% of cases, the epidemic evolves with some kind of virus strains. Accordingly, a vaccine is prepared for a predicted epidemic. You may face some strain that was absent in the vaccine. However, the vaccination itself aims at improving the general immunity.

Another topic. More typical for the neighboring countries. But everyone is talking about it in Belarus, too. In Poland, there were mass demonstrations against abortion. In Russia, people are collecting signatures on a petition, even Patriarch Kirill signed it, to remove abortion from health insurance. What do you think about the same topic when it comes to Belarus?
Dmitry Pinevich:
Over the last 5 years, the number of teenage abortions has reduced in Belarus by five times. It is very good. About 15 years ago, we had a horrific number of abortions even in relation to births. Now this figure has decreased, it is nearly European average. Firstly, we have clearly stated in the law when we do abortions. These are medical and social recommendations or when genetic structure requires it. This is severely limited. Women still have the right for that, but we try to do it gently and give her every possible chance, information support so that she refrains from this step. The birth rate is growing, after all.

What a pleasure to all of us. Darya Domracheva had recently given birth. She gave birth in Belarus, she did not go to her husband to Norway, where the medical level is lower than in Belarus. Was that patriotism?

Dmitry Pinevich:
Daria could go anywhere. Both husband and incomes allowed that. But the woman made the right decision. In general, you need to go to the doctor, to the institution to the doctor. This is true. Our infant mortality rate is 3 cases per 1000 births. These are good figures, they are near the European average again. 40% of deaths in children are deaths from external causes. 25% of children under the age of 18 die from external causes. Dropping out of the window, you remember that...

There is Mother's Day on 14 October. Let's wish good luck to all the mothers who have given birth and those who are going to do it.

Dmitry Pinevich:
And those who want to do it.

October 17 is a holiday. I congratulate you. 17 October is the day of birth of our guest Dmitry Pinevich. We wish you to be healthy and to tell us only good news in the health field.

Dmitry Pinevich:
Thank you.

Is flu vaccination necessary and will there be epidemic: Interview with Belarusian First Deputy Minister of Health