School flu shot campaign hits obstacles, especially among the haredim

Health fund says haredi families ‘hardest to convince’ to get shots.

December 5, 2016 19:12
1 minute read.
flu shot

HEALTH MINISTER Yaacov Litzman receives his flu shot from Prof. Itamar Grotto. (photo credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)

The Health Ministry’s campaign to vaccinate second- grade children against the flu throughout the school system has not been very successful, as nurses managed to “find” only 55% of them, and the parents of just 60% of those agreed to the shot.

The idea to offer flu shots to second graders around the country was initiated and directed by Health Ministry associate director-general Prof. Itamar Grotto, who decided that every year another grade would be added.

All Israeli residents are entitled to free flu shots from their health fund, which provides them to children when parents bring them into the insurer’s community clinic in the autumn and winter months.

Dorit Goldman, a representative of Meuhedet Health Services, the third-largest health fund, noted that 40% of their customers are ultra-Orthodox (haredi) and 20% Arab. While Arabs are generally very compliant in taking their children (and themselves) for vaccinations, haredi parents are “a tough nut to crack,” as they don’t easily agree to shots, and certainly not against the flu, even though complications of the viral disease can be fatal in children, pregnant women, the chronically ill and the elderly.

In 90% of the cases of children’s refusal to get a flu shot, the reason was that their parents told them not to agree, despite an education campaign by the ministry.

Ministry epidemiologist Dr. Emilia Anis said many Israelis wrongly regard the flu as a “mild condition,” but its complications are fatal to dozens of Israelis each year.

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