‘I was vaccinated against influenza to serve as a personal example and to stress its importance.’
By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman and his director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov rolled up their sleeves on Sunday to receive flu vaccinations from the ministry’s public health director, Professor Itamar Grotto.“I was vaccinated against influenza to serve as a personal example and to stress the importance of immunization before the winter arrives,” said Litzman. “Flu threatens the public every year, and many people suffer from serious complications and even death,” he added.Litzman called on the public to go to their healthcare providers and to take their family members to receive the free shot. “The vaccination is the most effective way to protect your health and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations.”As when he was a deputy health minister a few years ago, the United Torah Judaism MK asked a male physician to give him the shot rather than a female nurse for reasons of modesty. But male nurses are a minority in health clinics, so most haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men cannot get one to administer their flu shots.Grotto told The Jerusalem Post that although he is a medical administrator, he vaccinates his family members against the flu each year and has administered “thousands of vaccinations” throughout his career.He also gave the shot to Bar Siman Tov and three female employees in the director- general’s office. “I like to be a hands-on doctor from time to time,” said Grotto.Although the current security problems around the country, especially in Jerusalem, have seriously reduced pedestrian traffic, it was not clear whether the ministry arranged the photo opportunity because it is concerned that fewer individuals will travel to their health providers for the shots.The ministry recommends flu shots to everyone in the country from the age of six months and above, especially to people over 65, those with chronic illnesses and weak immune systems, children, pregnant women, people who work in medical institutions, and residents of old-age homes.Anyone who suffered from severe – but very rare – symptoms after last year’s shot should first consult with a medical expert before getting another one, the ministry said.As it takes a few weeks for the shot to produce protective antibodies against the flu, the public is recommended to go early, before the cold weather that accompanies the flu arrives.As the viruses that cause flu change every year – and are first detected in Southeast Asia – vaccine manufacturers are able to know in time which strains will threaten people in the rest of the world.The ministry said that because last year, a relatively large number of Israelis were vaccinated against the flu, the rate of illness here was lower than in previous years and compared to other countries abroad. Last fall/winter, 64 percent of Israelis over 65 received the shot, as did 21% of the whole population.Although Maccabi Health Services announced recently that it would supply free Flumist (nasal spray) flu vaccinations to its child members even if they were not covered by supplementary health insurance, Maccabi now stated that the option was not available.“The manufacturer announced that due to problems it did not foresee, the company will not be able to supply the vaccination to many of its clients around the world,” the Maccabi spokesman said.