Last month, Israel’s Health Ministry declared a war on measles, increasing efforts to have as many children vaccinated as possible. Conversely, in contrast to the increase in measles immunizations there is a decrease in the number of people vaccinated for influenza. Although the disease is milder and generally less significant, in severe cases it can be fatal.
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman supports legislation to ban children from daycare center and kindergartens if they are not immunized against measles. Despite his noble statements, some feel he must be held accountable for the situation and he should submit his resignation.
According to Ministry of Health data, as of the beginning of November, only 10% of all Israeli citizens vaccinated against influenza, compared to 12.7% last year and 14% two years ago.
According to the Ministry, at-risk populations (adults, infants, and those with weak immune systems) were vaccinated this year at lower rates: among adults aged 65 and over, 37.4% were vaccinated this year, while the rate of immunization last year was 45.1% and 48% two years ago. Among infants aged 6-23 months, this year 7.1% were vaccinated up to the beginning of November, compared with 10.1% in the corresponding period last year and 11.8% two years ago.
Among toddlers aged two to five, the rate of immunization stands at 7.5% this year, compared with 11.5% last year and 13.9% two years ago. Even among chronically ill patients under the age of 65 who are at increased risk, there was a very significant decline this year, and the rate of immunization in this population stands at 18.4% as of the beginning of November, compared with 26% last year and 26.5% two years ago.
Last year, 78 people died from flu in Israel and the previous year, 2016, there were 54 recorded deaths. The annual average since the beginning of the decade is 40 patients a year. The peak of the disease in Israel was in 2010, when the illness and its complications claimed 98 lives.