Israeli Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Avi Yisraeli warned that a quarter of all Israelis could contract swine flu this winter, and that as many as 700 people could die from the virus.
Speaking at a meeting of the Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on Monday, Yisraeli said that if the H1N1 virus spreads like regular flu, Israel could face a serious outbreak this winter that its health infrastructure would have trouble handling.
Yisraeli said most of the predicted deaths would be among youth and pregnant women. He also said that Israel is short about 4,500 hospital beds to deal with the number of people expected to catch the virus.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded to the threat by ordering the Health Ministry to buy enough vaccinations for every Israeli citizen.
But that decision has come under criticism from political opponents who noted that the available vaccination hasn't yet proven effective, and may not arrive by the height of Israel's flu season, anyway. They also rejected the idea of reducing funds for the purchase of other medications in order to stockpile the vaccine.