Four children at the Alyn Pediatric and Adolescent Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem have been diagnosed with swine flu, the health ministry said Sunday. Seven more children are thought to be infected with the virus, and have been quarantined.
Despite the fact that swine flu vaccines will only become available to medical staff and high-risk patients nationwide on Wednesday, the hospital secured special permission from the ministry's director-general to begin immediate vaccination of patients and staff.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman are expected to call a press conference today to announce the beginning of the national immunization program. The health ministry initiative, which may still be subject to last-minute changes, states that the program will be launched on Wednesday in hospitals, health maintenance organizations and clinics throughout the country. East Jerusalem hospitals will also be immunizing staff and patients.
In the first two months of the program, only medical staff and patients with chronic diseases aged 3 to 65 will be vaccinated. Later on, as a batch of vaccines without adjuvants arrives, pregnant women and children aged 6 months to 3 years with chronic illnesses will also be vaccinated. Parents of children and premature babies up to 6 months old will also be vaccinated, to prevent transfer of the disease to their children.
The children and teenagers hospitalized at Alyn suffer from difficult chronic conditions, and are considered to be at risk of developing complications if infected with swine flu.
Although health ministry officials have been gathering samples from all Alyn patients with any flu symptoms, some parents have signed their children out of the hospital on their own accord.
Out of the four children diagnosed at Alyn, three have recovered, and one has been transferred to Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem. His condition was classified by the hospital as serious but stable. Seven other children remain quarantined at Alyn, pending test results.
The total number of Israelis to have died from swine flu rose to 39 on Saturday, after a 29-year-old resident of central Israel died at the Meir Hospital at Kfar Sava. The victim did not suffer from chronic diseases, but his severe obesity coupled with heavy smoking put him at high risk, officials said.
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