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Israel Pushing for Swine Flu Vaccine Despite Controversy

Israel looks abroad for swine flu vaccines despite controversy. Fifth flu-related death reported.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 8/7/2009, 10:03 AM

Israeli officials have begun seeking a source of swine flu (H1N1) vaccines despite controversy over whether or not such vaccines are necessary. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plans to request vaccines in upcoming meetings with European leaders, according to Maariv.

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman will seek vaccines from the United States, and President Shimon Peres will be involved in the matter as well, the paper stated. The vaccines will initially be sought only for those considered high-risk, including medical staff, the chronically ill and pregnant women, Health Ministry officials said.

The search for vaccines has been complicated by the fact that at this point, there is no proven vaccine against the flu. Instead, countries seeking vaccines, among them Britain and Germany, have ordered them in advance from pharmaceutical companies that are developing still-untested vaccines.

Vaccines are expected to become available in September. Health officials fear that cases of swine flu will increase in the winter, when seasonal flu is most common, and hope to acquire the vaccines before then.

Netanyahu plans to spend NIS 450 million acquiring enough vaccine for every Israeli, a decision that proved controversial among Israeli doctors. A recent survey found that only 27 percent of family doctors agreed with Netanyahu's decision, while 39 percent believed the money should be used for other medical needs and 28 percent said a decision regarding vaccines should be postponed until a vaccine is developed.

Fifth Swine Flu Death
Health Ministry officials reported Israel's fifth swine flu-related death on Friday morning. The number of swine flu deaths jumped from two to four earlier in the week after the Health Ministry changed its definitions of swine flu fatalities to include two patients who died after apparently recovering from the flu.

The latest victim was a 50-year-old man, who passed away in Jerusalem's Shaarei Tzedek hospital. Like previous victims, the man suffered from chronic health problems.

The victim has been identified as Adiel Levin, a long-time librarian at the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem. His funeral procession will begin at 11:30 a.m. at the yeshiva.