Vexed Vax Issue Settled in Israeli Schools

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel’s Health Ministry director-general and coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Health Ministry seems to have won out over the Education Ministry in a long-running fracas over the vaccination of students in Israeli schools.

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash signed a directive Wednesday ordering schools across the country to allow vaccinations to be administered on the premises during school hours, The Times of Israel reported.

Heads of educational institutions are to allow Health Ministry teams to enter and give shots to willing staff and to students over the age of 12 who have written permission from their parents to get inoculated.

As a result of the directive, chareidi students, who have already begun their school year, will start getting vaccines on Thursday.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton has opposed vaccinations in the schools, and has been quoted as calling vaccinating students in schools a “crime.”

Her position is that while schools could use their resources to encourage students to vaccinate, she fears that allowing it during school hours would put the schools in the middle of a divisive debate.

On Tuesday, Haaretz reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was preparing a legal opinion that would assert the health minister’s authority to bypass the education minister on the matter.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly lost his patience with the education minister in a recent cabinet meeting over Zoom, declaring, “It’s unthinkable that you don’t understand that it’s your responsibility just as much as the Health Ministry’s.”

Bennett’s office later denied that he spoke angrily, but did not deny that such a disagreement took place.

“Not every exchange that happens in [cabinet] discussions is a confrontation,” Bennett’s statement said. “The prime minister and the education minister are working in cooperation to open the school year safely, while protecting the health of Israel’s children.”

The target date for the first day of school is Sept. 1, according to a plan approved by the government. However, when asked about it on Tuesday, Bennett equivocated, saying it will depend on the coronavirus numbers.