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Israel low on flu shots as seriously ill set to overtake past 2 years combined

HMOs say they are ordering more vaccines to meet demand as aggressive strain hits country, amid reports people are being turned back due to shortages

A nurse prepares the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Haverstraw, Rockland County, New York, on April 5, 2019. (Johannes Eisele/AFP)
Illustrative: A nurse prepares a vaccine (Johannes Eisele/AFP)

Israel’s health organizations are feared to be running out of flu vaccines amid a national health scare, with 2019 already close to surpassing the number of people hospitalized due to the disease in the previous two years combined.

So far over 100 people have been hospitalized in serious condition with the particularly virulent and aggressive strain of the virus, and numbers were expected to grow, with the height of the flu season expected around the end of January. The entire winter of 2018-2019 saw some 45 hospitalizations while 2017-2018 had 77.

The Ynet news site reported Saturday that, with some 1.8 million people vaccinated so far the season, the country’s four health maintenance organizations were believed to have only some 150,000 vaccines remaining. There were reports of people being turned back from HMO branches due to shortages.

The four organizations all said they were working to obtain more vaccines to meet the extraordinary demand.

On Saturday popular singer Shiri Maimon wrote on Instagram that she and her children had contracted swine flu and that she had suffered complications. It was “a nightmare,” she said.

Eleven people have died since the beginning of the 2018-2019 flu season, according to Health Ministry figures. At least nine of the fatalities were caused by complications of swine flu, Haaretz reported Wednesday.

Last winter 45 people were taken seriously ill by flu and 17 died.

On Thursday a woman giving birth was admitted into intensive care in very serious condition after contracting the flu. The 26-year-old’s condition improved on Saturday and she met her newborn child.

On Wednesday an 18-month-old girl died of complications of the flu at Rehovot’s Kaplan Medical Center. The child arrived at the hospital unconscious and in critical condition. Doctors were forced to declare the girl’s death shortly after her arrival. Her blood test showed that she had contracted the flu.

Her death came after on Tuesday a 19-year-old man at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center and a 14-year-old girl at Beersheba’s Sheba Medical Center died as a result of flu complications. A man, 50, also died from the disease at the Samson Assuta Ashdod University Hospital, Haaretz reported.

Also Wednesday, a month-old baby apparently suffering from the flu virus was rushed to Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in critical condition. Doctors were able to stabilize the boy.

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