Four year-old Jonathan Nies reacts as he receives a flu vaccination at Children's Hospital Boston in Boston, Massachusetts. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Maccabi Health Services ran out of flu vaccinations in the last few days, but the other three health funds still have tens of thousands of shots. The Health Ministry said it expects new supplies to arrive in two to four weeks.
In recent years, no more than a quarter of Israelis – and about 60 percent of those over the age of 65 – have gone for a flu shot, even though it is recommended for all over the age of six-months. But due to publicity about the death a few weeks ago of a 54-year-old woman from flu complications, the media and the public went into a panic and large numbers of unvaccinated people ran to their health fund clinics for shots.
This year saw no strains that posed more risk or more deaths from complications than in recent years, but the media coverage caused the demand for shots to increase significantly.
Although about 8 million Israelis should be vaccinated, the health funds purchase many fewer units so as not to be stuck with vaccinations that won’t be used. They cannot be used next year because the makeup of the vaccine is changed annually due to the development of different strains.
Ministry public health chief Prof. Itamar Grotto, who received on Thursday a suggestion from The Jerusalem Post on how to plan vaccination supplies in advance without having shortages or surpluses, has scheduled a meeting for Friday to discuss it. The suggestion was that every summer, all families or individuals will be contacted by their health fund by email, SMS, WhatsApp, phone or regular mail asking them if they want to be vaccinated in the fall. In any encounter with a physician, patients would be asked as well. If they register, a dose of vaccine would be ordered for them; if they decline, it would not. If they registered for a shot but didn’t go for vaccination, according to the suggestion, they could pay a small fine or be put at the bottom of the priority list if they demanded a shot nevertheless.