A 25-year-old woman who had no chronic illnesses died on Monday at Ha'emek Hospital in Afula after succumbing to complications of the H1N1 flu virus.
Later in the day, a 52-year-old man with chronic illness who was infected with the virus died at Netanya's Laniado Medical Center. The two were listed by the Health Ministry as the 79th and 80th Israeli victims of the pandemic flu strain since March.
According to the ministry, an average of 700 Israelis die of complications of the seasonal flu each year, but the campaign for this vaccination is much less public. The ministry said vaccinations against both strains are important.
On Monday, Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman finally got an H1N1 flu shot. It was given to him not at his health fund clinic, where most of the public get theirs, but at the ministry's public health department on Jerusalem's King David Street.
So far, around four percent of the population has gone for the free voluntary shot. No one who died of H1N1 flu had received the vaccine.
Litzman did not explain why he delayed getting his shot two months after participating in a press conference with Prime Minister (and nominal health minister) Binyamin Netanyahu - in which both Netanyahu and Litzman himself called getting the shot a "civic duty."
However, Litzman is a Gur hassid, and the Rebbe of Gur, Yaakov Aryeh Alter, has just issued an endorsement to his hassidim to get the shot, as haredim are generally suspicious of vaccinations.
As of last Wednesday, the prime minister had not been vaccinated.
The ministry, which has purchased 7.3 million doses of H1N1 vaccine to cover the entire population, reported the vaccination rates so far of medical personnel at all the country's general hospitals. It ranges from 4% at Jerusalem's Bikur Holim Hospital to 58% at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. But most averages are in the 20% to 35% range.
The ministry and hospital managements have put heavy pressure on medical staffers to get vaccinated, as they could infect patients with the flu or be infected by them. So far, 60,000 doctors, nurses and other hospital staffers have bared their arms for the shots.
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