The Slovenia Times

Experts say epidemiologists should have main say on epidemics


Ljubljana - Prominent Slovenian health experts said at a round table on Wednesday that epidemiologists should have had a major say in the management of the Covid-19 epidemic in Slovenia, with some adding that there was an unclear line between the government's advisory group and political interests.

The round table, entitled Epidemic and Science(s), was organised as part of a series of round tables initiated by the University of Ljubljana and the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Ivan Eržen, an epidemiologist and former head of the National Institute of Public Health, believes that the predominance of infectologists in the government's Covid-19 advisory group meant that the government "wants to have an alibi for certain decisions".

Many of the measures taken to control the epidemic were of dubious success in Eržen's view, as people were bewildered when they tried to follow the constantly changing decrees and measures. He also expressed his opposition to compulsory vaccination.

Immunologist Alojz Ihan agreed that epidemiology experts should be in charge of epidemics in every country. In Slovenia, he said, the expert group on Covid-19 had "merged too much with the government", which he believes was a mistake.

Ihan also feels that epidemiologists have been "unusually quiet" during the epidemic, while epidemiologist Alenka Kreigher criticised "the management of the epidemic by infectologists".

In her opinion, the reason for the predominance of infectologists in the expert group was that it had always been stressed how the healthcare sector must be protected from the consequences of Covid-19.

Kreigher was not convinced by this argument, as she sees the epidemic as a problem for society as a whole. In her view, the task of communicating with the population should have been taken on by epidemiologists.

When asked if epidemiologists should have been more vocal, she replied negatively. "It's not being vocal that gets us to a better outcome," she said, adding that epidemic management plans had been in place in Slovenia even before Covid-19.

Kreigher further explained that at the beginning of the epidemic, it was stipulated that epidemiologists could only advise nursing homes when a coronavirus case occurred in a particular home, even though the problems could have been dealt with in advance.

"Someone will have to take responsibility for the fact that nursing homes have become institutions where there are no conditions for the healthy to stay healthy," she said of the spread of infections in nursing homes during the first wave of the epidemic.


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