Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party was at the center of a storm over COVID-19 vaccination on Sunday, expressing skepticism about its efficacy and opposing sanctions on those who refuse.
In remarks defending a member of his party, Liberman claimed that “we do not know anything about the vaccine” and said that he opposed compelling people to get vaccinated, an option that the government has been considering in recent days.
Yisrael Beytenu MK Eli Avidar told Radio 103 on Friday, “I have a lot to say about this campaign that is starting to put pressure on the country and aims to vaccinate everyone who moves, when it should not, and should only vaccinate people in a risk group.”
“I’m telling you I will not get vaccinated and I will also tell you why — I’m not at risk, I’m not afraid, I feel healthy, I’m keeping myself healthy, so why should I get vaccinated?”
Liberman qualified his remarks, saying that “you need to get vaccinated but forced vaccination is not appropriate. [But] there’s nothing better. It’s better for people to go and get vaccinated.”
And he added that, as for Avidar, he should be allowed to believe what he wants.
“He believes in yoga, veganism and sports … The man believes in other things and should be respected,” Liberman said.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch (Likud) denounced Liberman: “At a time when the State of Israel is leading in the world’s race for vaccinations, Liberman and his MKs in Yisrael Beytenu are distributing fake news on the effectiveness of the vaccines, and some are boasting that they chose not to get vaccinated,” he said. “The behavior of Yisrael Beytenu throughout the coronavirus crisis has been dangerous, irresponsible and populist,” The Jerusalem Post quoted him as saying.
Refuting the skepticism, former coronavirus czar and current head of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, Prof. Ronni Gamzu, rejected Liberman’s assertion that “we do not know anything about the vaccines” and called it irresponsible to spread such disinformation.
“I know a lot about vaccines; we know the dynamics of the vaccine in the tens of millions who have been vaccinated globally,” Gamzu told the Kan public broadcaster. “Maybe MK Liberman doesn’t know much about the vaccine, but science knows.”
“This vaccine works, and it works well,” he said. “Young people who do not feel the disease spread it to people who can get seriously ill.”