St. Petersburg hosted offsite mass media-oriented conference “The architecture of health. The role of mass media”

On June 6–7, St. Petersburg hosted the offsite mass media conference "The architecture of health. The role of mass media" sponsored by Petrovax Pharm and Interros Group. The event that focused on immunity maintenance and immunization coincided with the 16th All-Russia scientific forum "Immunology Days in St. Petersburg". More than 70 leading vaccination experts, immunologists, and pediatricians as well as representatives of specialized, business, and sociopolitical mass media from Moscow and St. Petersburg took part in the scientific and practical conference and roundtable discussion.

On June 6, at the symposium "Holding back infections", medical experts noted several critical periods in the immune system development, i.e. the first 6 months of life, 1–3 years, and puberty. Therefore, according to Andrey Shulzhenko, Head of Allergology and Immunology Department of FSBI State Scientific Center "Institute of Immunology", FMBA of Russia, not being vaccinated, and not having one’s child vaccinated is an outdated and dangerous approach.

At the same symposium, Mikhail Kostinov, Head of Immunization and Immunotherapy Laboratory of  I. I. Mechnikov Research Institute of Vaccines and Sera, pointed out that due to mass vaccination, influenza and ARVI morbidity rate in Russia decreased nearly tenfold over the past 20 years. In epidemic season 2015–2016, 60.5 influenza and ARVI cases per 100,000 population were documented. Among infants and young children, influenza morbidity rate was 6 times as high as in adults. 623 fatal influenza cases were recorded, among them 30 cases in children under 17.

In the light of the above, experts recommend that parents raise their awareness and education level. Currently, physicians use the term "sickly" children. Who are "sickly"? E.g., children aged 1 to 3 years with 6+ acute respiratory infection (ARI) episodes a year, or older children with 5+ ARI episodes a year. "It is worthwhile for parents to take their child to an immunologist only when it becomes obvious that the disease gradually progresses, when there are multiple lesions of various organs, and continuous lengthy disease recurrences," said Susanna Kharit, Chief Independent Expert for Children’s Immunization of St. Petersburg Health Committee, Head of Immunization Department of Research Institute of Children’s Infections, FMBA of Russia. According to Ms. Kharit, over the past 40 years, the non-rational antibiotic use pattern has not changed dramatically. Immunologists keep saying that casual use of  "self-prescribed" antibiotics causes microbial drug resistance. That is why it is a crime to treat a child with antibiotics 4–6 times a year even if they are prescribed by a physician.

On June 7, during the roundtable discussion "The architecture of health. The role of mass media" held at the Center for Architecture, the experts continued talking about the role of immunization, immunity maintenance, and the importance of the mass media in getting across to patients with reliable information.

"The mankind knows many outstanding architects who have mastered the principles of designing and harmonious arrangement of buildings in space. Their wisdom can be applied to the architecture of health as well. Just as it is impossible to erect a building without a solid foundation, and go into medicine without knowing Latin, so good health cannot do without strong immunity", said Maxim Ovcharenko, Novaya Vysota (New Height) Consulting CEO, in his introductory speech.

"These days, it is very difficult to maintain strong immunity, as adverse factors significantly affect the human immune system," said Lyudmilla Luss, Head of Scientific and Consultancy Department of FSBI State Scientific Center "Institute of Immunology", FMBA of Russia. "Poor environmental state, stress, overstrain, improper diet, bad habits, sedentary lifestyle, and uncontrolled drug taking cause immune dysfunction, which manifests itself in frequent exacerbations of chronic inflammatory diseases, including ARVI and other infections. To maintain immunity, it is important to strengthen health by way of proper nutrition, physical exercise, and conditioning, among other things. In case of immune disorders, immunomodulators may be indicated."

"Humans are for 90% made of microbes," noted Ekaterina Kazharskaya, Petrovax Pharm Medical Advisor. "According to the US National Institutes of Health, just 10% of the cells constituting the human body are proper human. The rest 90% of the cells belong to human bacteria. Antibiotics are not always efficacious in treatment of infectious diseases. To add to this, they have many side effects, and have to be dechallenged or replaced. Vaccination and immunotropic therapy provide for disease prevention or disease severity and complication reduction."

Interros Group Director for Communications Anton Muravyov and ByconGroup CEO Igor Raichman dwelled on influenza morbidity media coverage as well as the public opinion survey in respect of the attitude to immunization. "We recorded specifics as follows: the mass media have been increasingly focused on influenza both at the federal and regional levels. But this focus is seasonal. As a vaccination campaign starts, so the mass media get down to focus on this issue. When some epidemic ends, everybody forgets about influenza, ARVI, and the necessity to maintain one’s health all year round to be prepared for an epidemic season, among other things. Among those surveyed, there is a disbalance in reliance to the information sources used. Thus, specialized sources are trusted on a par with the Internet and friends, but the smallest percentage of the respondents read specialized media. A disbalance is also observed between the attitude to vaccination in the capital and Russian regions because of lack of a uniform information policy," noted the experts. They concluded that the objective of pharma companies, state, mass media, and civic society was to unite their efforts to do away with the population’s unawareness in respect of vaccination and immunization on the country-wide scale.

"Unfortunately, in this country, people that are nowhere near medicine like commenting on immunization issues," remarked Daniil Tkachev, RIA AMI COO. In his presentation, Mr. Tkachev disclosed interesting facts on everyone who spoke against vaccination. But, he went on to say, the problem was that the level of trust to negative information among the population was higher than that to unbiased information from competent experts.

"The mass media would often snatch at sensation, and disseminate unverified information. At the same time, they are much less eager to publish positive findings of immunization studies," went on Lyudmilla Luss.

"We hope that, due to such sessions, communications between the industry expert and mass media will grow stronger. Provision of unbiased information is our common responsibility to the benefit of patients’ health," summarized Olga Matsenko, Petrovax Pharm Director for Corporate Communications and GR.

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