Some 175,000 Israeli kids not immunized against polio virus — Health Ministry

Authorities urge parents to take children to receive vaccine following small outbreak in Safed this month

A file photo from 2013 shows a worker holding a polio vaccine at a medical center in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A file photo from 2013 shows a worker holding a polio vaccine at a medical center in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

At least 175,000 Israeli children have not been vaccinated against polio, a viral disease that mainly affects children and can cause disability, paralysis and death, according to a new assessment by the Health Ministry cited by Channel 12 on Monday.

Parents of children who have not been immunized were urged to take them to a local health center to receive the vaccine.

Polio vaccinations are standard for children and are an effective preventive measure, but vaccine skepticism has recently enabled the disease to rear its head again.

Earlier this month, four children were diagnosed with the disease in the northern city of Safed, and the Health Ministry warned that there was evidence in recent months “of a spread of polio in many sewage systems in Israel.” The ministry said at the time that it estimated that 150,000 Israeli children were unvaccinated against the virus, 25,000 fewer than Monday’s figures. Three of the children became infected with the virus after being exposed to an eight-year-old girl in Safed who tested positive for the polio virus despite not having any symptoms.

The Health Ministry said it would continue to monitor and update the public, and encouraged people to maintain good hygiene practices to stymie any outbreak.

Last March, the first case of polio in 33 years was discovered in Israel, leading to a small outbreak and a vaccination drive to combat the disease.

The finding landed Israel on the World Health Organization’s Polio Eradication Initiative’s list of countries with outbreaks, after being declared polio-free in 1988.

On Friday, the State of New York’s health department called for residents to get vaccinated against polio before traveling to Israel, warning of the recent diagnoses in the country

In a statement, the New York Department of Health called on New Yorkers “to get fully immunized” before flying to Israel or other countries with polio.

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