Israel's current polio outbreak is tip of the iceberg - Health Min. D-G

Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash stressed that polio can be eradicated through the use of vaccines.

 A boy receives polio vaccine drops at a clinic in Kiev, Ukraine, October 21, 2015. (photo credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)
A boy receives polio vaccine drops at a clinic in Kiev, Ukraine, October 21, 2015.
(photo credit: GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS)

Health Ministry director-general Prof. Nachman Ash addressed the renewed outbreak of polio in Israel on Tuesday morning.

In an interview on the program of Golan Yochpaz and Anat Davidov, he explained that "it is very acute in my eyes. Although the number of cases is small, it is just the tip of the iceberg that indicates infections mainly in Jerusalem, but also all over the country."

According to Ash, "We must eradicate this disease, it is a disease that can simply be eradicated through vaccines and that is what we are doing. We set out with an extensive vaccination campaign that began in Jerusalem and will spread throughout the country. Children up to the age of 17 are vaccinated with the weakened oral vaccine, two drops, and I very much hope that we will eradicate this disease."

Ash also clarified that he is aware that there is public fatigue regarding vaccines, following the vaccination campaigns against coronavirus:

"In 2013, there was a similar operation that caught the public's attention widely, but this time it's much harder. They're tired of the coronavirus, of the vaccines, but we just talk about it as much as possible in public outreach. This is extremely important, it is not a big hassle, it is an old vaccine that we are familiar with, so I hope that the public will respond and come and get vaccinated."

ARAB RESIDENTS of Jerusalem take their children to get the polio vaccine at a Tipat Halav clinic in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in 1988. (credit: AYALON MAGGI/GPO)ARAB RESIDENTS of Jerusalem take their children to get the polio vaccine at a Tipat Halav clinic in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in 1988. (credit: AYALON MAGGI/GPO)

Who needs to complete the vaccination?

"This is a fairly large number of about 2 million children, with those who have not received two oral vaccines in the past being the ones who need to arrive. Since 2013, we have been vaccinating with two oral vaccines, but there is a large group between 2005-2013, who probably only received one dose and they need to arrive."

How do you know about vaccines?

"There are several ways, either with the vaccine booklet, whoever kept it, or the small children have to get to the Tipot Halav (Baby Clinics) and the older children to the HMOs and there they will be told. If in doubt — you should get another dose, it is not harmful."

Will the extra dose be boosted across the country?

"Yes, we started this in Jerusalem and will expand it to the whole country since we have found isolations of the virus in other places outside of Jerusalem," said Ash. 

When asked about the vaccination of adults, he explained: "Our assumption is that they are vaccinated. The child population has the potential for infecting one another and therefore there is no need for an adult vaccine."

Ash stressed that despite fears that Israel is not currently dealing with an epidemic: "Certainly not, we have one case of illness, but there is an outbreak of infections that in this case we, because of the possibility of eradicating the virus and because it can cause severe illness and lifelong paralysis, want to eradicate it."

Referring to the coronavirus situation, he said: "We are not done with it, we have about ten thousand infected every day, we are a little dull to these numbers, these are very large numbers. We are still in the remnants of the fifth wave, slowly descending to lower numbers, and I hope we stabilize at such numbers And that we can continue to live almost as usual."