The cost of the vaccines and anti-virals will reach NIS 450 million.
Netanyahu instructed the Prime Minister's Office
director-general Eyal Gabai to work with Finance Minister Yuval
Steinitz and Litzman on finding sources of financing, and to submit a
proposal to an upcoming cabinet meeting. Litzman strongly opposes the
Treasury Budgets Division's view that these should be paid for with the
more than NIS 400m. allocated to expand the basket of lifesaving and
life-improving drugs for 2010.
Earlier on Wednesday, Litzman said that he did not believe the
purchase was necessary, as the antidote was currently not fully ready.
However, he admitted that professionals in his ministry were in favor
of the acquisition in light of their prediction that one in four
Israelis would contract swine flu over the winter.
Speaking on Army Radio, Litzman maintained that Tamiflu was sufficient for dealing with the spreading epidemic.
"There is currently no vaccination going on in Israel," Litzman said.
"We would be prepared to invest a lot of funds into it, but
there is simply no need. And besides, by the time the vaccination would
arrive, the winter will already have passed."
He addressed fears within the professional ranks of his office,
like the worry that if Israel does not hurry up and order the
vaccination, the stock will be exhausted by orders placed by other
"There is no point in putting money into a vaccination without
definite knowledge of its efficiency. While the assessment that many
people will contract the virus in the winter may prove correct, there
is no need to worry - there are antidotes, and the illness is mild," he
On Monday, the Health Ministry announced the first patient to die of complications of the H1N1 virus in Israel.
Shimon Azran, 35, an obese smoker, died at Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat
over the weekend.
So far, about 1,500 cases - around 30 or 40 new cases a day -
have been reported in Israel. Others have gone unreported, with people
who feel unwell just staying home and not going to their doctors.
Litzman's ministry is planning a public education campaign for
the autumn to reduce prevalence of the flu and to encourage vaccination
against conventional influenza, which could combine with H1N1 virus.