(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Maccabi Health Services, the second-largest health fund, surprised the Health Ministry and the three other public health insurers by announcing that it will start giving its members free influenza shots on Sunday. Usually, the health funds open their flu shot campaign after Succot.
The ministry said there was nothing wrong with getting the shot now, as it would be just as effective in three weeks, but usually people don’t have the time or presence of mind to get the annual free immunization before the end of the High Holy Days.
Maccabi said it would even supply Flumist – the nasal spray flu protection – free to children aged two to six whose parents are Maccabi members even if they do not carry supplementary health insurance from Maccabi, which is the only one of the four to offer Flumist to all its members in this age group.
Maccabi said it will have supplies of the nasal-spray vaccine from the beginning of November.
Explaining its rush to be the first, Maccabi said it decided to act now because it has received its supplies and that it feared the illnesses of winter are already showing signs of having arrived.
Flu immunization is recommended for the entire population from the age of six months old, but especially for children up to the age of five years and adults aged 65 and over, pregnant women, health system workers and sufferers at all ages of chronic diseases.
The injection is given free to all members at its clinics without the need for any appointment or prescription.
Members aged six to 49 can get the nasal-spray vaccine for NIS 27.45. One must come with a doctor’s prescription that entitles members to buy Flumist at Maccabi Pharm pharmacies and bring it to the health fund’s clinic nurses.
It takes two weeks until the flu vaccine creates antibodies that protect (but not by 100 percent) the body against the flu. This year, Maccabi purchased 430,000 units of injectable vaccine and 9,000 units of Flumist.
Maccabi said 21 percent of the entire population went for flu shots last year– a record high. Of these, 423,000 were Maccabi members.