With the High Holy Days over, the weather turns cooler – time to get a free influenza shot at your health fund clinic.

The Health Ministry said on Tuesday that this year – on the basis of an analysis of cases in the Far East where flu strikes first – two more strains have been added to this year’s vaccinations that did not exist last year. The ministry added that there is some likelihood that the number of people with flu will increase this winter.

Respiratory infections – most of them viral but some of them bacterial – are common in the winter. Any age can be affected, but the elderly, people with chronic illnesses and weak immune systems, and babies are at most risk. Pregnant women should also be vaccinated.

Since younger children and adults can infect those at risk of complications, it is recommended that everyone go for the shot, which is provided by the health insurer at no cost. Doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel should also be vaccinated so they do not infect patients, as should patients who live in institutions. Vital personnel in workplaces should also get the shot.

The vaccination, recommended from age six months, does not prevent all flu infections as they are less effective in the elderly – but if it does not eliminate a certain infection, it does make the case significantly easier.

The four public health funds are already prepared to provide the shots, as they ordered large numbers of doses from suppliers.

As it takes a few weeks for antibodies to develop and to protect the body, it is recommended not waiting until the flu season is in full force in November through February.

The new flu strains include one from group A and another from group B. The new formulation is A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like; A/victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like; and B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like (Yamagata lineage).

The killed or attenuated viruses in the vaccine cannot cause the flu. Reactions and side effects are very rare, the ministry said. Anyone who previously received the flu vaccine must get it again, as the shot must be taken annually.

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