Ukrainian refugee influx may result in higher rates of tuberculosis, HIV and Covid-19, physicians warn

Medics wearing special suits to protect against coronavirus look at an X-ray of a patient's lungs at the city hospital in Stryi, Ukraine, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
By Lucie Ctverakova
3 Min Read

An influx of Ukrainian refugees may lead to an increase in illnesses such as tuberculosis, previously on the decline in Czechia, which the country is not currently prepared for, a leading physician has warned.

Martina Koziar Vašáková, the president of the Czech Pneumological and Physiological Society, has claimed that while a noble act by the government to assist those fleeing war in their homeland, Czechia does not currently have sufficient supplies of tuberculosis vaccines or other effective drugs that may be required to keep the frequency of such illnesses on the decline.

“Unfortunately, Ukraine is one of the countries we consider risky when it comes to tuberculosis incidence,” Vašáková explained. “We can assume that hundreds of thousands of refugees will find a new home in the Czech Republic. We have to take care of everyone, but we have to take into account the risks,” she added.

The leading physician revealed that more deliveries of tuberculosis vaccines have been ordered by authorities but “they won’t arrive right away.”

“Pharmaceutical companies usually plan production a year in advance, and it is not easy to increase capacities quickly,” Vašáková added.

Associate Professor Milan Sova, chairman of the Czech Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases and head of the lung clinic of the University Hospital Brno, also warned against the spread of a more insidious, multi-resistant form of tuberculosis which he explained cannot be treated with conventional anti-tuberculosis drugs.

“We will have to prepare for the onslaught of these complicated cases,” the doctor noted.

Refugees from Ukraine are often of poor health

Other experts have drawn attention to the overall poor health of refugees, with some suggesting they should be undergoing medical examinations upon arrival, including, for example, a lung X-ray.

In an interview with FTV Prima, Ppresident of the Czech Medical Chamber Milan Kubek emphasized the risk of coronavirus spread.

Most people in Ukraine have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, to which, according to him, features a questionable effectiveness. Sputnik V has not yet received authorization for use from the European Medicines Agency and has not been recognized by the European Commission as a safe and functioning vaccine.

In addition, Ukraine is one of the regions with a high HIV prevalence. Measles and whooping cough also pose a high risk.

“We must be careful about providing medical care to the people of Ukraine. People need to be thoroughly checked. Children should be vaccinated as soon as possible as per the requirements of Czech legislation,” Kubek warned.

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