Two new strains of flu included in the vaccine are expected to make an appearance this year, increasing the likelihood that the incidence of flu will be greater than last year.
One of the hallmarks of winter is an increase in the incidence of respiratory tract infections. Most of the diseases are viral, but some are bacterial – primarily complications of viral infections. These diseases affect all age groups; however babies and senior citizens are especially vulnerable.
Principles of Prevention
The risk of catching infectious diseases of the winter can be greatly reduced by getting vaccinated (against influenza) and by maintaining good hygiene.
The Ministry of Heath reminds all the citizens of Israel that the flu can be avoided by getting vaccinated, provided that the vaccination is given at least two weeks before exposure to the disease. Therefore, the time to get vaccinated is now. The vaccination is recommended for Israeli citizens from the age of 6 months up. There are also specific groups at risk, as specified on the Ministry of Health website. The health funds (Kupot Holim) are equipped and ready to administer the flu vaccination. The vaccination is administered free of charge at every health fund (Kupat Holim) clinic. The vaccine contains 3 components based on the flu strains expected in the approaching winter.
This year, as every year, the vaccine is aimed at three components of the flu virus (two from Group A and one from Group B). This year it in contains two components not included in last year’s vaccine (that is, two of the components were replaced). The composition of the vaccine for this year is:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
- A/victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus (which was not included in last year’s vaccine)
- B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus (Yamagata lineage) (which was not included in last year’s vaccine)
Who should be vaccinated?
In principle, the vaccination is recommended for the entire population from the age of 6 months up. That said, it is very important that the following population groups be immunized:
- Patients with long-term diseases:
A. Acquired or congenital cardiovascular disease, including rheumatic heart disease
B. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
C. Congestive heart failure
D. Morbid obesity, BMI of 40 or higher
F. Chronic bronchitis
G. Cystic fibrosis (CF)
K. Chronic conditions following respiratory disorders in the neonatal period
M. Other chronic metabolic diseases involving a predisposition for developing infections
N. Chronic kidney and urinary tract diseases
O. Diseases accompanied by immunosuppression, including AIDS and malignant diseases
P. Patients receiving treatment that suppresses the immune system
R. Diseases of the liver
S. Neurological diseases
T. Hematological diseases
- Vaccination by age group:
A. Persons from the age of 50, and especially from the age of 65.
B. Children aged 6 months to 6 years, and especially up to the age of 2.
- Pregnant women.
- People living in institutions where the risk of infection is greater.
- Medical staff – due to their high risk of infection, and at risk of infecting patients.
- Indispensable persons in key positions in various organizations.
When should one get vaccinated?
It is best to be have the flu vaccination at the beginning of October, and strongly recommended no later than the end of November, though one can be vaccinated after this date too.
What are the side-effects of the vaccination?
The flu vaccination consists of inactivated (killed) or weakened viruses and cannot cause the flu. If you experience a respiratory infection shortly after being vaccinated, it means that you were vaccinated during the flu incubation period, or that the illness has been caused by another pathogen.
Reactions to the vaccine are rare. Local reactions including redness, swelling, and sensitivity for 1 to 2 days occur in less than one third of those who are vaccinated. General reactions: fever, muscle aches and other general reactions appear 6-12 hours after the vaccination and last a day or two. Such reactions are much more rare and are liable to appear mainly the first time you are vaccinated.
Why is it important to be vaccinated every year?
The vaccination prevents contracting of the flu as well as complications such as pneumonia, hospitalizations and mortality. Getting vaccinated every year is recommended as the disease mutates; every year a new strain appears that is somewhat different from the strain of the previous year. The vaccine this year (and every year) is manufactured on the basis of World Health Organization forecast, which determines which strains are expected that year.