Health Min. fears flu vaccine shortage will make COVID-19 treatment harder

The Health Ministry fears a lack of enough flu vaccines which may be a challenge when trying to differentiate between coronavirus and influenza patients.

Flu vaccine 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Flu vaccine 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
As winter approaches with the coronavirus pandemic still very much around, the Health Ministry fears a lack of enough flu vaccines may pose a challenge when trying to differentiate between coronavirus and influenza patients, according to a report by Ynet on Friday morning.
In light of a global shortage of flu vaccines and the higher demand this year due to the coronavirus, the Health Ministry is already estimating that major parts of the population won't be able to be vaccinated at all.
According to a report by Ynet, officials from the Health Ministry told hospitals that the goal is reaching 4 million vaccinations, with 2.2 million vaccines already purchased.
With the expected shortage, the Health Ministry defines people between the ages of 45-65, above 65, children up to the age of 5 and pregnant women as high risk groups, meaning that younger people under the age of 45 will have a hard time getting their hands on a vaccine. It's worth noting that usually, the Health Ministry officially recommends that all people above the age of six months by vaccinated before the winter.
"Priorities should be determined by health considerations of those at higher risk of catching the disease and those who the vaccine would be most effective for," according to Prof. Hagay Levine, chairman of the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians. He added that "prioritization according to age is relatively easy to create practically. However, prioritizing according to underlying conditions is a lot more complicated."
"The earlier we administrate vaccinations, the more beneficial they'll be," Levine said, emphasizing the fact that the most important thing right now is increasing the number of available doses.
Nissim Alon, CEO of Leumit Healthcare Services, told Ynet that "the indication needs to be that those in coronavirus risk groups will be the first ones to receive the flu vaccine," adding that "most of the population won't be receiving a flu vaccination this year."
The similar symptoms of coronavirus and influenza will require doctors to quickly and accurately identify patients in order to avoid admitting coronavirus patients together with non-coronavirus patients. Hospitals have thus noted the importance of fast COVID-19 tests, which are more expensive but provide results within an hour, allowing quicker response.