Coronavirus Commissioner: We Need to Consider Making Vaccines Mandatory

YERUSHALAYIM -
Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka speaking at a press conference. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Coronavirus commissioner Prof. Salman Zarka said Wednesday that Israel should weigh introducing a national vaccine mandate compelling all citizens to get themselves inoculated against the coronavirus, a notion that mirrors legislation under consideration in several European countries.

“I think we need to examine all the options, including the option of mandating vaccination in the State of Israel,” Zarka told Radio 103FM in an interview.

“That is my position, which does not currently reflect any activity in the field, neither in the Health Ministry nor in the government,” he noted.

“There are 680,000 people in Israel who have not been vaccinated at all. We are constantly trying to reach them,” Zarka said. “It is quite clear to me that they are not vaccine refusers, but looking at what happened to us in the fourth wave of epidemic, which hit the unvaccinated more than others, one has to consider how such people will be vaccinated.”

As for the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of the Molnupiravir COVID medication, Zarka said, “It really isn’t a perfect medication, but it’s an important medication for patients who have pre-existing conditions and can suffer from complications with the coronavirus disease.”

Zarka clarified that “the most important tool for us to protect ourselves and not need these medications is the vaccines, but we need all the tools [available] in this war.”

He said that Israel was constantly in negotiations to acquire various means to contend with the virus and that if the medication received authorization, Israeli citizens would have access to it. Zarka further said Israelis might be able to purchase the medication at their local pharmacy in the future. “It prevents the development of the disease and the appearance of severe illness.”

On the other hand, head of Public Health at the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, said that she does not believe mandatory COVID vaccination is necessary, despite the spread of the Omicron COVID variant and the consequent potential of another outbreak.

“I don’t think we should go to places like these, but I guess things are still up for consideration,” said the health official. “I do not think we are in a state of emergency. We are in a worrying situation, but we are taking all the necessary actions.”

Last month, Austria announced it would make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory starting February. The country had already imposed movement restrictions on those not vaccinated or recently recovered from the virus, becoming, in early November, the first EU country to order them to stay at home.

Greece has announced mandatory shots for over 60s, with unvaccinated people facing fines if they don’t comply.

Germany’s new chancellor said Tuesday that he will back a proposal to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for everybody next year.