Health Ministry Considers Mandatory Coronavirus Vaccination for Israelis

YERUSHALAYIM -
A diagnostic test for coronavirus in a lab at the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is considering the option of recommending legislation requiring Israeli citizens to be vaccinated against coronavirus when the vaccine is made available in Israel.

The debate came after an announcement by Pfizer that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective and could begin to be rolled out by the end of 2020.

The move is intended to push members of the public who fear vaccination to immunize themselves and encourage the chances of herd immunity among the populace and those who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The ministry’s epidemic task force has previously expressed concern about public hesitation to receive a vaccine and the consequences should a large slice of the population refuse to  be vaccinated.

The task force proposed to step up the Health Ministry information campaign about the pandemic in order to provide additional information about the vaccination.

The proposal may face legal opposition, however.

“In principle, the State of Israel has until today refrained from legally requiring any vaccinations,” said Dr. Adi Niv-Yagoda, an expert in health policy and medical law at the Tel Aviv University.

“Even today, the state allows a citizen to maintain autonomy and not be vaccinated with the routine vaccines recommended by the Health Ministry,” said Niv-Yagoda.

“Many steps are taken to explain the importance of immunization. … Consequently the immunization rate [in Israel] is one of the highest in the world.”

Niv-Yagoda said that despite the pandemic, a law forcing citizens to immunize themselves “constitutes a fatal violation of basic rights and freedoms of the individual. The way to achieve high immunization coverage is through advocacy and the establishment of trust between the government and the public.”