The Finance Ministry is set to authorize the release of NIS 40 million ($11.5 million) to the Health Ministry in order to help with preparations for the winter. The money will go toward hiring staff and ensuring that resources are available to help with the expected increase in patient loads in the winter. The release of the money was authorized by the Knesset Finance Committee.
The money is a form of compensation for the ministry, which like all others saw its budget slashed as part of a general budget cut. For the Health Ministry, that was NIS 270 million, with officials saying that the cut would significantly compromise its ability to treat patients. Deputy Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman thanked the Committee, saying that it was a “matter of first aid for our winter activities.”
HMOs (Kupot Cholim) in Israel have already begun administering flu shots to all who want them. According to officials, there is a worldwide shortage of high-dose flu vaccine, designed to protect from several different strains, but those who want a shot should have no trouble getting one – if they come earlier in the season instead of postponing their inoculation.
With that, Health Ministry officials said they were able to round up about a million shots. According to Professor Natan Kellner of Sheba Hospital, the problem has been not with production but with logistics, and that more supplies should arrive later in the season if needed. According to officials, vaccinations are the only way to effectively deal with the flu, which is highly contagious. In any given year, as many as 20% of workers call in sick for at least several days after being sidelined with the flu, representing a tremendous drain on the economy.