Demand to Increase for Flu Shots – But Are There Enough to Go Around?

YERUSHALAYIM -
A patient receives a vaccination against the H1N1 Swine Flu. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90
A patient receives a vaccination against the H1N1 swine flu. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

An investigation by daily newspaper Haaretz says that despite the call by the Health Ministry that Israelis seek out inoculations against the H1N1 virus, which has resurfaced this week, there are not enough doses to go around for the number of people likely to appear at health-fund clinics seeking one.

According to the investigation, there are about 100,000 doses in Israel, out of a total of about a million that the funds had five years ago, when a national inoculation campaign was initiated.

Concern over the resurgence of the disease mounted Thursday when officials at Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikvah said that a woman in her 50s who had been hospitalized after contracting the disease passed away Wednesday night. She was one of at least eight women who are currently being treated for the disease, with some in serious condition. Later Thursday, it was revealed that there were an additional six patients in the hospital who had been diagnosed with the disease.

H1N1 made headlines in Israel and worldwide in 2009, when health authorities prepared for mass infections that eventually did not materialize. However, there were a significant number of cases then, and the disease resurfaces each winter. Women, especially those expectant, are among the most at risk of contracting the disease, medical officials said.

According to Health Ministry figures, 21 percent of the Israeli population was inoculated against the disease last year; in the last three months that number has dipped to 17  percent. The Ministry expects brisk demand in the coming days for the inoculation.

Despite the unusually large number of cases in recent days, the Ministry added, it does not believe that an epidemic is in the offing.