Health Ministry ordering more flu vaccines each year

Thirty Israelis have died of influenza complications this season.

HEALTH MINISTER Yaacov Litzman receives his flu shot from Prof. Itamar Grotto (photo credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)
HEALTH MINISTER Yaacov Litzman receives his flu shot from Prof. Itamar Grotto
(photo credit: HEALTH MINISTRY)
The Health Ministry has been steadily increasing the number of flu vaccines it orders each year – up to 1.83 million doses this year.
Last year 1.7 million were ordered, compared to 1.662 million two years ago and 1.35 million three years ago.
However, as the public’s demand for influenza vaccines varies from year to year, some years the health funds throw many doses out, and some years there are shortages. Two years ago, the health funds threw out 213,000 unused ones at a cost to the public purse of NIS 4.2 million, the ministry said Monday.
Flu shots, made from the killed virus, can be given only in the same season, as the components of the vaccine are changed every year according the strains of flu detected in Southeast Asia – as recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta – where the infection first strikes every autumn.
Three years ago, the insurers ordered 1.35 million vaccinations for the country’s 8 million residents, but due to lack of public interest, 40,000 units went unused and were destroyed at a cost of NIS 800,000. A year ago, 1.7 million doses were ordered, and all of them were injected.
This flu season, which began in October and is ending now, 1.83 million doses were initially ordered, and due to media reports on a younger woman who died, the public panicked and demanded more. Addition doses were purchased by the health funds to meet the demand.
None of the 61,000 attenuated-virus nasal spray (mostly for children) doses that were ordered reached Israel because of production problems abroad, the ministry said.
A total of 30 Israelis, most of them elderly or with weak immune systems due to chronic diseases, died of flu complications this year. The ministry said there was “no connection” between an unusual number of deaths and a shortage of doses. This year’s flu was considered “mild.”
The ministry said the health funds must not purchase from pharmaceutical companies fewer doses than those ordered in the previous year. The insurers must higher immunization rates this season.
The number of deaths due to flu complications has varied in the past six years from 96 in 2009-2010 to one in 2011- 2012; serious cases have ranged from 232 in 2009-2010 to five in 2011-2012.