Arab families are more likely than their Jewish counterparts to take their infants for vaccinations, according to the Health Ministry, which stated on Thursday that 98.5 percent of Arab babies were protected compared to 93.5% of Jewish ones.

In a statement marking the International Week for Encouraging Vaccinations, the ministry said two new shots added to the vaccination schedule between 2009 and 2011 had saved lives and money. The vaccinations were Prevnar, against pneumococcus infections, and a shot against rotavirus.

As a result of their addition, the number of invasive infections caused by pneumococcus bacteria has declined by 70%, the ministry said, adding that the vaccination had also caused a significant decline in the number of children being taken to emergency rooms with pneumonia.

Another benefit, according to the ministry, has been a decline in the number of young children suffering from serious ear infections. The introduction of Prevnar has also reduced the number of infections caused by bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

Adults have benefited as well, the ministry noted, as the amount of infection by pneumococcal infections spread by babies and young children has also dropped.

The rotavirus vaccine, added in 2010, has reduced gastrointestinal illness in children during the winter months. Last winter, such illness declined by 60% in children up to the age of two, and the number of health-fund clinic visits by children aged two to four dropped by 48%, the ministry noted.

This year, a shot against the human papilloma virus was added for girls in the eighth grade. The sexually transmitted HPV is liable to develop into cervical cancer a number of years after infection. As such, the shot, given in schools around the country, is expected to cut the prevalence of cervical cancer.

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