With three weeks since the start of Israel's flu vaccination campaign ahead of winter, only less than a quarter of a million Israelis had so far received their shot.
Clalit HMO, the country's biggest health fund, reported that so far about 150,000 people have been vaccinated against influenza, Maccabi HMO reported 50,000 people, Meuhedet 25,000 and Leumit 12,000 - a total of some 237,000, much lower than health officials expected who warn that this year's flu season could be more intense because of it.
"Last year there was almost no flu, but this year, the severity could be intense, because people aren't getting vaccinated against it for the second time", says Prof. Zvi Friedlander, an expert in internal medicine and lung diseases and director of the internal medicine department at Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center.
"As a result, this can create a situation in which people's immune system won't recognize the flu virus, won't be able to deal with it and in some cases, they can become seriously ill.
"We know certainly, just like in the case of COVID-19, flu vaccines reduce morbidity. Also, there is no problem in receiving both shots, but it is advisable to wait several weeks between them, mostly because if there are side effects, they will appear separately", said Friedlander.
He also said that it is still unclear why flu morbidity was so low last year. The assumption is it was caused by mandatory social distancing, quarantine and face masks.
Friedlander said that an increase in flu patients will be a serious burden for Israel's health system, as hospitals are already busy with caring for coronavirus patients.