Israel low on flu vaccines as virulent strain hits

Israelis turning to health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to receive flu vaccines said on Sunday they were being turned down due to shortages of influenza shots to combat a strain proving more harmful than those of previous years.

Others were dissuaded by long waiting lines as the country struggled to cope with the demand for shots.

As the year comes to a close, more than 100 people have been hospitalized in serious condition with complications from flu, compared to just 45 people last year and 77 the year before.

Administering the flu shot

(Photo: Gil Yohanan)

These numbers are also expected to grow as flu season generally peaks around January.

Some 1.8 million Israelis have been vaccinated so far this season, with the country’s four health maintenance organizations estimated to have just 150,000 vaccines remaining.

A senior Health Ministry official confirmed that vaccine stock is expected to run out next week and no additional vaccines are expected to be purchased, leaving more than 7 million Israelis potentially unvaccinated.

The official said the ministry did not anticipate such high demand for vaccines, given the very low vaccination rate of previous months.

Health officials feared that ordering larger stocks of influenza shots could have led to hundreds of thousands of unused vaccines being discarded.

Flu vaccine

(Photo: Gil Yohanan)

Eleven people have died since the beginning of this year’s flu season, according to the Health Ministry, including two 14-year-olds, a 19-year-old and a 18-month-old toddler.

This is a slight decrease compared to last year’s 17 victims of the pathogen, but data from the Health Ministry indicates that there is a drastic increase in hospitalized patients in serious condition.

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