While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to veto the decision of his deputy health minister, deciding to order millions of doses of swine flu vaccine, finding the close to NIS 500 million necessary for the purchase is an entirely different matter.
The controversy over which agency must pay for the vaccines is heating up between Finance Minister Dr. Yuval Shteinitz and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. Litzman, who opposed the purchase of the vaccines, told the prime minister the funding must come from another source, other than the Health Ministry. Shteinitz remains equally firm in his opposition, insisting he will not stray from the parameters of the state budget and funding must be found within the existing fiscal framework.
Treasury officials seem to feel if there is no other alternative, the funds will come from all ministries but the treasury seems to agree with the prime minister and the vaccines will be purchased and high-risk population groups will be first to receive the vaccine. This would include healthcare employees, pregnant women and small children.
Health Ministry officials are outraged, explaining this is no different than a ‘state of war’ and therefore, additional funds must be allocated to address growing swine flu concerns as additional funds are made available during wartime.
According to the Health Ministry’s Prof. Danny Engelhard, who heads the infectious diseases unit, the vaccine will be given to healthcare workers first, followed by pregnant women and then the chronically ill.
Two more people are listed in serious condition in Tel Hashomer Hospital with swine flu. A 60-year-old male and a 45-year-old female are listed in serious condition, both in a high-risk category, both in an ICU and connected to mechanical respirators.
1,725 people have been diagnosed with the illness in Israel, with 22 listed in serious condition.
An infant listed in serious condition last week is showing signs of improvement in Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikvah. He has been removed from a respirator but remains in an ICU under observation.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)