Swine flu - to vaccinate or not to vaccinate?
Swine flu - to vaccinate or not to vaccinate? Israel news photo

The H1N1 flu vaccination is available, as of this week, to all citizens of Israel.

It is being offered, free of charge and with no doctor’s prescription, at all health fund (Kupat Cholim) branches. Pregnant women and babies aged six months to three years can receive it at “Well-Baby” (Tipat Halav) clinics. Soldiers and security personnel who agree will be vaccinated at their bases, and foreigners can receive the shot at Health Ministry offices.

Until now, it was mostly only health care officials and personnel who received the vaccine. However, only 30 percent of them chose to receive the shot.

The vaccine is being offered amidst a worldwide controversy as to its safety and efficacy. In Israel, the vaccine is offered with or without adjuvant, an ingredient that heightens its effectiveness but has been linked with extra risks. The adjuvant-enriched vaccine is not offered to pregnant women or children under three years old.

Some 70 swine flu patients have died in Israel since the outbreak of the disease, but nearly all of them suffered from other conditions that apparently contributed to their deaths. Three people - all dialysis patients - have died shortly after receiving the vaccination.

The Health Ministry, which has purchased 7.3 million doses of the swine flu vaccine – enough for every Israeli – is somewhat concerned that due to the mild public response to the call to be vaccinated, many of them might pass the one-year expiration date without being used.