Gantz backs using IDF medics to bolster national flu shot campaign

Cabinet to consider proposal to have soldiers who serve in coronavirus vaccine centers inoculate people against influenza, alleviating pressure on hospitals

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Illustrative: An IDF medic prepares to take blood from a soldier, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: An IDF medic prepares to take blood from a soldier, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed off on a plan to use military medics in the national flu vaccination effort, his office said on Thursday.

The proposal was scheduled to be discussed at the cabinet’s upcoming meeting on Sunday.

Under the plan, some 900 Israel Defense Forces medics, who already take part in the national coronavirus vaccine campaign by serving in civilian healthcare clinics and COVID-19 vaccination centers, would also inoculate people against influenza.

Gantz’s office said the plan to have soldiers also inoculate people against the flu is meant to “increase the number of people vaccinated against the flu and minimize the burdens on hospitals this winter.”

Health officials have raised concerns about a possible “twindemic” of both the coronavirus and the flu hitting Israelis this coming winter, which could put yet more stress on the country’s already struggling hospitals.

“The entire security establishment and the IDF will continue to assist in all national efforts to fight the coronavirus and to preserve the Israeli economy and Israeli society. Anywhere that the IDF’s operational capabilities can provide solutions, the IDF will be there for Israeli citizens, in full coordination with the healthcare system and all relevant bodies,” Gantz said.

Recent weeks have seen a marked decrease in serious coronavirus cases in Israel, dropping to 385 as of Thursday, the lowest amount in over two months.

The death toll continued to rise, however, reaching 7,966 victims since the pandemic began.

The number of serious patients is seen as a key indicator of the extent of the virus spread and officials have been eagerly waiting to see the figures go down.

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash cautioned that despite the encouraging data, some health rules to prevent the spread of infection will remain in place.

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