Israelis Rush for Flu Vaccinations After Three Deaths Already Reported This Season

The Clalit Health Maintenance Organization administered some 10,000 flu shots over the past two days, a significant increase compared to previous days, the HMO said.

Thousands of Israelis packed health clinics nationwide yesterday to receive flu shots, following reports of the disease's spread and the death of a 15-year old on Tuesday from seasonal flu.

Idan Levy of Cesarea was the third fatality claimed by flu in Israel this winter. A month ago a 33-year old East Jerusalem resident died in Hadassah Medical Center Mount Scopus and last week a 55-year old of Kiryat Ata died in Hafia's Rambam Medical Center, both of swine flu.

The Clalit Health Maintenance Organization administered some 10,000 flu shots over the past two days, a significant increase compared to previous days, the HMO said.

Maccabi HMO also reported a dramatic rise in people asking for the vaccination yesterday, totaling about 6,000, twice as many as on Tuesday and five times as many as last week.

In previous years, however, HMOs reported as many as 20,000 people requesting the flu jab daily.

Leumit HMO yesterday reported having vaccinated more than 50,000 so far, and an increase of 2,000 in the people applying for flu jabs since the beginning of the week. The Meuhedet HMO reported no change in the demand for flu jabs in the past few days.

The Health Ministry reported an improvement in the flu situation in the hospitals. "The hospitals have become accustomed to the winter activity. But we must not slip into complacency, the flu is still active," said Dr. Hezi Levy, head of the ministry's medical administration.

By the beginning of January, 982,747 Israelis had received the flu jab, which includes swine flu antibodies this year. More than half (54 percent ) of those aged 65 and more, categorized as a risk group for flu complications, have been vaccinated this year. However, only 13 percent of the children aged six months to five years, who are also a risk group, have received the vaccination.

"All the HMOs have a sufficient supply of flu jabs and there is no risk of shortage at present," Levy said. The flu shots are administered free of charge.

Yesterday, 16 patients with serious flu symptoms were hospitalized in intensive care units throughout the country. A slight improvement was reported in the condition of a 34-year old flu patient from Upper Nazareth, who is hospitalized in serious condition in Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva.

Israel's 28 state-run hospitals yesterday registered an average 106 percent occupancy. A 156-percent occupancy was registered at Hadassah Medical Center, Mount Scopus' internal medicine department and 140 percent in the city's Shaarei Tzedek hospital.