AN ISRAELI CHILD receives the polio vaccine in 2013.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Health Ministry’s privatized School Health Service served 1.3 million pupils in grades one to nine during the past school year, better than ever before, according to the ministry.
The School Health Service has been highly criticized by the State Comptroller and MKs almost since its founding around a decade ago.
Previous criticism included failure to vaccinate all children in need of shots, inadequate time to provide health checkups, inadequate manpower and even injecting water instead of vaccine.
Before privatization, all School Health Services were provided by ministry-employed nurses, but the Treasury’s insistence on handing the responsibility to contractors as a “money-saving” measure led to charges of “incompetence.”
It therefore became more expensive than when it was a public service.
The service is run by three contractors – Natali in the Jerusalem, Haifa and northern districts; Fami Premium in Tel Aviv and central districts; and by the ministry’s public district health office nurses in the war-affected south.
Then-deputy health minister (now current Health Minister) agreed to roll back privatization in the south at the end of his previous term, but did not do so in the rest of the country.
National vaccination coverage averaged 96.8 percent for varicella, mumps, measles and rubella vaccines in first grade; 94.9% for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (dTAP) and inactivated polio vaccines in second grade; 94.4% for dTAP in eighth grade. Only 63.3% of eighth graders received the first dose of the human papilloma virus vaccination, and only 59.8% received the second dose against HPV. This is largely because religious and ultra-Orthodox parents refuse the shot for their daughters.
As for the national average for health checkups by the private nurses, 97.5% tested growth rates of first graders and 94.4% tested seventh graders; 96.6% checked vision in first grade and 96.6% in eighth grade. Hearing of first graders was checked in 97.3% of cases, and 71.3% of children received medical advice.
The rate of health education classes given by nurses was generally lower, between 87% in second grade to 70.6% in ninth grade.
The ministry last week said that the high rate of vaccination was achieved despite “shortages of some vaccines around the country during the last school year.”
Health Minister Litzman said he was gratified by the statistics and praised the ministry’s Public Health Services branch that supervises the contractors. “The high rates proved that the existing model is successful, and the children in Israel receive safe and high-quality services with high levels of coverage,” he added.
Public Health Services branch head, Prof. Itamar Grotto, said the privatized service proved its abilities in both in the center of the country and the periphery.
“The willingness of parents for their children to be vaccinated expresses the public’s confidence in the vaccination program and its importance in strengthening the resilience of the public’s health through disease prevention,” said Grotto