Israelis tired of shots are rejecting new needed COVID-19, Flu vaccines

Science and Health

With the upcoming arrival of the High Holy Days, Israelis of all ages from six months up and in all sectors are reminded to go to their health fund for their annual influenza vaccination. The Israel Pharmacy Association has called on the public to get the free shot as soon as possible, as well as people at high risk for complications of COVID-19 to get their updated vaccinations.

The more people who get vaccinated against flu and coronavirus in advance, the less the burden on the public systems will be, and adults and small children will get through the winter without complications that can be life-threatening, the Israel Pharmacy Association said.

That most Israelis have gone for multiple COVID-19 shots in the last few years has made them tire of rolling up their sleeves at their healthcare clinics. But based on data from the southern hemisphere, the flu virus changes every year, and a new version is needed every autumn before the weather turns cold and wet.

Drop in the number of people getting vaccinated

According to the data at the end of last winter, the percentage of the vaccinated against the flu among all the insured in all the HMOs was only about 17.9%, which is 1.68 million people. This is a significant drop in the number of vaccinated people in all age groups.

According to Prof. Eyal Schwartzberg, chairman of the Israel Pharmacy Association and formerly the Health Ministry’s chief pharmacist, “The flu shot is an effective and proven means of preventing the incidence of influenza accompanied by complications and reducing hospitalizations. The same is true for the COVID-19 vaccine. I call on the general public and especially on at-risk populations, including patients over the age of 65, the immuno-compromised, pregnant women, and people suffering from chronic diseases, to go ahead and get vaccinated now. I also appeal to the Health Ministry to act as quickly as possible to make vaccinations accessible to the general public and to also allow pharmacists to vaccinate as much as possible.”

Young girl receives vaccine. (credit: Rami Zerneger for Clalit Healthcare Services)

Clalit Health Services, the largest HMO, covering half of the population, has purchased 1,125,000 flu vaccines with four killed strains, which can be given by injection, including 10,000 vaccines in an increased dose for those 65 and older, as well as 25,000 live attenuated FLUMIST spray vaccines meant for ages two to 49.

The target populations for receiving the flu vaccine are chronic patients, the housebound, women planning pregnancy, pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children, healthcare workers, and residents of nursing homes, Clalit said.

According to Ruth Baruch, head of Clalit’s nursing department and manager of the flu vaccination operation, the flu-shot program is a significant part of the preparation for the coming winter.

“Flu shots are an effective and proven means of preventing the incidence of the flu, its complications, and reducing hospitalizations,” she said. “Our challenge is to vaccinate the majority of the target population and the general public.

It is recommended to get vaccinated in advance to get protection from the flu, especially in view of the trend we are seeing these days, with the increase in Corona-19 morbidity, it is advisable to arrive in winter protected and avoid cross-infection.”

The flu-shot campaign is accompanied by text messages to target populations, publications in clinics and social networks, proactive outreach by teams to at-risk populations, and more. The vaccinations will be given free in general clinics nationwide, including its women’s health centers and children’s health centers. It is recommended to make an appointment on the website, app, or at your clinic.

Maccabi Healthcare Services, the second-largest health fund, has started giving vaccinations to its members, who should make an appointment for them.

Last year, more than 465,000 Maccabi members were vaccinated, comprising 18% of its membership – a 10% decrease from 2021, when the figure of those vaccinated was 20%. The data also show that 23% of pregnant women and 55% of those aged 65 and over were vaccinated last year and were vaccinated against the flu last winter.

Meuhedet Health Maintenance Organization, the third-largest HMO, started its flu-shot campaign first among the hospitalized population and has now expanded to all of its community clinics throughout the country.

According to Dr. Roni Farber, director of its public-health department, “The coming winter’s viral illnesses are expected to be severe, so we call on our insured of all ages to come and get their shots.”

Leumit Health Care Services, the smallest of the four, also began its vaccination campaign.