Flu vaccine abundant - and unused [p. 4]

Although the health funds now have adequate supplies of flu vaccine, most people at high-risk have yet to be vaccinated. Clalit Health Services said last week that 65 percent of its members who need it the most - those with chronic conditions; individuals over the age of 50; healthy children aged six months to two years; and pregnant women - had not been vaccinated. The Health Ministry said that some 520,000 people had been vaccinated as of December 10, and that the four health funds had ordered a total of 1.15 million doses. This time last year, many more had been vaccinated because of headlines about avian flu. In addition, the weather has been mild, and the deaths of two chronically ill elderly people days after getting their vaccine scared off many people. Ministry director-general Prof. Avi Yisraeli and Maccabi Health Services director-general Prof. Yehoshua Shemer recorded public service radio ads calling on high-risk individuals to get vaccinated to reduce the chances of potentially fatal complications. The ministry said there had been few cases of the flu due to the mild weather, but that these cases have been of the A strain, against which the vaccine is very effective.