Israel buys record 4 million flu vaccines

The purchase almost doubles last year’s supply, and the health authorities have already decided to expand the circle of mandatory vaccinations.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Israeli government has bought a record four million flu vaccines in an effort to reduce hospitalizations during the winter, when most internal medicine departments run at well over their capacity.

Hospitals are already straining to treat hundreds of Covid-19 victims and it is feared that even an influx of the average number of flu patients will overwhelm the system.

The purchase almost doubles last year’s supply, and the health authorities have already decided to expand the circle of mandatory vaccinations.

“In the first round, we’ll vaccinate the priority high-risk groups – those ill with chronic diseases, medical personnel, and schoolchildren up to age 12,” said Health Ministry Director-General Hezy Levi. “As additional doses arrive, we’ll expand the administration of vaccines to pregnant women and other groups.”

In past years, children were vaccinated automatically only up to the fourth grade (age 10).

As first reported in Israel Hayom, two health funds, Maccabi and Clalit, will also be providing a new, more powerful flu shot for the elderly this year.

The Fluzone High-Dose Influenza Vaccine contains four times the antigen, the part of the vaccine that helps one’s body build up protection against flu viruses. It’s specifically formulated for those 65 and older, and consists of the three flu strains most likely to cause the illness during the upcoming season.

The elderly, who are at the highest risk, produce 50-75 percent fewer antibodies than younger people in response to a regular flu shot, and this vaccine has been proven in studies to compensate for the difference.

Read  WATCH: 'Squad' member torched for 'racist' comments

Another flu vaccine that will arrive is good news for many who are fearful of injections. A nasal spray called Flumist will be available for those aged two-to-49.

According to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, a survey conducted by Midgam for Assuta Medical Centers revealed that 56 percent of the respondents were planning on getting a flu shot this year. Considering that Israel has an estimated 8.6 million people, if that number holds true for the entire population, four million doses will not quite be enough.

Two million residents were inoculated last year, with the government purchasing 2.2 million doses.

Many of the typical symptoms of influenza are similar to those of Covid-19: fever, cough, muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue. Some one million Israelis come down with the flu each year. This will likely lead to a huge jump in requests to be tested for coronavirus during the winter months, with people forced to self-quarantine until their results come back negative.

Even without the danger of hospital overload, reducing such cases to manageable levels would be important for the health authorities.