'53% more likely to get flu shot if doctor tells them to'

Clalit survey finds nearly a third of people fear vaccination has side effects; a fifth said vaccine is worthless.

By
January 4, 2011 04:11
3 minute read.
The Jerusalem Post

flu vaccine 248.88. (photo credit: Bloomberg)

Flu vaccinations have been available free at health fund clinics since October, but still only about 15 percent of the general population and a little over half of the high-risk population have gone for their shots (or nasal spray for children from some insurers).

The severe overcrowding of many hospital departments have made the Health Ministry’s recommendation of vaccination even more urgent.

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Dr. Avivit Golan-Cohen, the district physician of the central region of Kupat Holim Leumit, reported on Monday that according to its survey, 53% said they were more likely to go for vaccine if their doctor or nurse recommended it.

Thirty-eight percent said that if a pharmacist suggested vaccination, they would go and get the shot, but only 14% were motivated to roll up their sleeves after receiving a postcard reminder from their health fund.

One’s spouse influenced 12%, followed by friends who previously had a serious case of the flu.

She also investigated what discourages people from getting a flu shot. Nearly a third said they were turned off by fears that the vaccination has side effects – even though the virus is killed and cannot give the person the flu. Almost a fifth said the vaccine is worthless – even though it prevents the flu in most cases and reduces the severity of the case in the rest.

Eleven percent said they “had no time,” while 7% blamed a “previous unsuccessful experience” with the vaccination. Only 4% said they had not received a card from their health fund inviting them to come in.

The ministry said that a 34- year-old woman without any chronic diseases was in serious condition with flu complications at the Rabin Medical Center- Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva after being transferred there from Emek Medical Center in Afula.

At the same time that the hospitals have a severe shortage of beds, the Yad Sarah organization said that it too lacks hospital beds for lending out to people for use in their homes.

In 2010, it lent out 2,400 beds – which is almost twice the number in the largest medical center, Sheba at Tel Hashomer. Lending hospital beds to patients who are seriously ill but can be cared for at home reduces the pressure on hospitals.

The voluntary organization also lent out medical equipment – from oxygen-production machines to walkers – to 260,000 people last year from its more than 100 branches around the country. As only 4% of its budget is covered by the government, Yad Sarah is hard-pressed to meet all demands through donations.

Meanwhile, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem announced that one of its physicists, working with colleagues at the University of Michigan, has developed a new theoretical strategy for vaccinating populations against infectious diseases by using techniques from the field of quantum mechanics.

Prof. Baruch Meerson of the Recah Institute of Physics found that while most patients will recover from the disease and develop resistance, there is a very good chance that some of them will spread the disease among others through contact with high-risk people.

To reduce the prevalence of infectious diseases, the health authorities vaccinate as many individuals as possible if there is an available vaccine. But many times, the health system finds that some refuse to get their shots, there is too little vaccine or there are difficulties in storing it.

During the research, the scientists focused on the fact that even when there is no vaccination, a disease such as the flu will die out eventually each season. Meerson said that one can speed up the flu’s natural rate of demise by vaccinating intensively only those at high risk for flu, such as children in classes in which a certain percentage have already come down with it.

Although their theory has not been tried out in real conditions, their calculations show that vaccinating a small part of the population can reduce the time it takes for the disease to die out from five months to only three to four. The physicists are now working to deepen their understanding of the phenomenon they discovered.


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