Comptroller weighs examination of health ministry over measles outbreak

The Ministry of Health is facing intense criticism for their "ineffective" efforts into containing the outbreak of the measles virus.

By
January 17, 2019 15:51
2 minute read.
A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet.

A vial of measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an information sheet is seen at a hospital. (photo credit: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER)

 
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State Comptroller Yosef Shapira will consider examining the Ministry of Health’s handling of the recent measles outbreak, according to a report released on Thursday.

The comptroller’s office has contacted infectious disease and public health experts, and is working on compiling data about past efforts regarding the measles outbreak, examining if they were sufficient. However, no formal decision has been made so far over the next steps to take in combating the outbreak.

The Ministry of Health released a statement warning the general public of the dangers of measles, including that one out of every ten patients require hospitalization after contracting the virus.

Nearly 3% of hospitalized patients also have encountered issues with pneumonia. According to data, three have contracted meningitis and two measles cases resulted in fatalities.

The Ministry of Health is facing intense criticism for their “ineffective” efforts in containing the outbreak.

Critics cite the delayed start in vaccination efforts in the Jerusalem area, the city with the largest amount of unvaccinated individuals.

Moreover, those born between 1957 and 1977 only received one dose of the measles vaccine and are only partially protected.

For years, the ministry has also not taken action against doctors who distributed false information about vaccines, and has not worked to reaffirm the public to vaccinate their children. Finally, critics mentioned the lack of government support for Tipat Halav (early childhood clinics), where most infants receive their first vaccinations.

The measles outbreak has surfaced due to the failure of thousands of parents to vaccinate themselves or their children, particularly among the haredi or ultra-Orthodox communities in Jerusalem, according to Health Ministry officials.

Community leaders and rabbis have sent mobile units to entire neighborhoods to vaccinate citizens living in the affected areas.

Several members of Knesset have reacted to the outbreak.

“The antisemites in Europe once blamed the Jews for spreading the Black Plague,” Bayit Yehudi coalition head Shuli Moalem-Refaeli said. “Now, [the committee] is blaming the haredim for the measles. It is too bad that a meeting with national importance has stooped to a blame-fest.”

The Health Ministry claims that immunization rates in Israel are among the highest in the world, despite the current measles outbreak. On average, about half of the population in haredi communities are not immunized.

The Health Ministry requires children by the age of one to be vaccinated against measles and other contagious diseases, however, mostly due to negligence, parents do not follow the law.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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