Panic over flu shots as 3 kids die of infections

Media reports in recent weeks send tens of thousands of people rushing to their health funds for free shots.

Swine flu patient  (photo credit: Ariel Jerzolomiski)
Swine flu patient
(photo credit: Ariel Jerzolomiski)
Media reports in recent weeks of the deaths of healthy children from complications of the flu have sent tens of thousands of people rushing to their health funds for free shots.
Previously, they were apathetic to Health Ministry warnings about not getting vaccinations.
The latest tragedy was a six-year-old first-grader who died at Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tzrifin on Monday of complications after fever. Two babies, one a four-monthold boy and the other a three-month-old girl, died at Assaf Harofeh the same day, but the causes of their deaths were not clear. The ministry said there was no connection among the three children.
Last week, a 16-year-old boy died of flu complications, setting off concern among parents and others that this year’s flu outbreak was more virulent than in previous years.
The ministry said that some health funds – mostly Clalit Health Services and Maccabi Health Services – reported having too few flu vaccinations on hand but said that this was “only temporary and new supplies would soon arrive.
Maccabi said it had ordered 15,000 more shots that would arrive in 10 days. Any of its members who bought vaccine at a private pharmacy would be reimbursed for NIS 20 of the cost if they brought a receipt, it said.
Clalit said that since October, it had vaccinated 710,000 of its members against the flu, compared to 670,000 last year. Of those who got the shot this year, 70,000 were babies under one year.
Although the vaccination campaign was to have ended soon, the largest health fund decided to go on with it as long as people wanted to get their shots. Members in the Haifa and the North, Sharon and Samaria regions were most likely to go for vaccinations.
Meanwhile, a 34-year-old woman who was hospitalized at the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva in very serious condition for complications of the H1N1 flu virus and was connected to an ECMO machine was disconnected in an improved condition and returned to Emek Medical Center in Afula.
The expensive device supports nonfunctioning respiratory systems and allows damaged lungs to recover. Rabin has one of the country’s few machines and much experience using it. The woman is now attached to a respirator at Emek and slowly improving.
According to the latest ministry report, 33 people have been hospitalized in serious condition as a result of the flu and four have died. Twenty-three are still hospitalized in intensive care, 19 of them attached to a respirator. Of the 33, eight are children, 24 adults from 19 to 65 and one over 66. Twenty of them are men and the rest women. Nine had been healthy, with no chronic diseases. The four who died were two children and two adults, a man and a woman, and none has been vaccinated this year.