'Nearly 1/4 of Israelis would refuse H1N1 vaccine'

Eighth and ninth Israeli victims of swine flu die in Petah Tikva.

Assaf Harofeh swine flu 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
Assaf Harofeh swine flu 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
Nearly one-quarter of Israelis would refuse to be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu virus even if the government managed to bring in enough vaccine when it is approved, according to a new poll conducted for the Health Ministry among a representative sample of residents. The ministry said on Monday that 69% of respondents said they would agree to take the shot. Fifty-eight percent of those polled said they were worried about the spread of the new flu strain, and 54% were nervous about becoming infected. Fully 65% regarded infection as "serious," even though 99.9% of the 2,331 Israelis who are on the record as having been infected had only mild cases and are healthy. Nearly eight in 10 respondents said they understood that hands should be washed regularly with soap and water; 62% knew they should sneeze into a disposable tissue or the inside of the elbow; and 63% understood that after contracting the flu, people should remain at home. Only if a person was at high risk for complications and felt unwell, they agreed, should he go to his family doctor or an emergency room. Asked how they preferred to call the H1N1 virus, 54% said "world flu" and 28% "swine flu," even though Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman dubbed it the "Mexican flu" because haredim don't like to mention pigs, as they are not kosher. The ministry said it would launch a major publicity campaign about avoiding the "world flu" when schools reopened in two weeks. Schools and kindergarten staff around the country were being briefed by the Education Ministry on how to reduce the risk of H1N1 flu virus among pupils and toddlers, and to help minimize any anxiety about it among the children. Educational social workers and counsellors will be available for consultation, and parents will be given guidelines. Meanwhile, the eighth and ninth Israeli victims of the flu died on Monday morning (there had officially been eight, but one death attributed to H1N1 turned out not to be connected to the flu). One was a 76-year-old heart patient who died at the Rabin Medical Center-Hasharon Campus in Petah Tikva. While the man had also been diagnosed as being infected with the H1N1 flu, the role the illness played in his death was not certain. The ministry's policy is to attribute the deaths of those infected with H1N1 to the virus even when the cause of death is uncertain. The other victim, a 67-year-old man hospitalized with pneumonia who had also contracted swine flu, died in the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus, also in Petah Tikva. In this case too, the ministry said there was no certainty as to the cause of death.