High Court rejects request for interim freeze of polio vaccine campaign

Decision comes shockingly fast, says failure to undertake nationwide campaign unacceptable "risk of people's lives."

By
August 22, 2013 19:51
2 minute read.
An Israeli child receives a polio vaccine

polio vaccine illustrative 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Oswaldo Rivas)

 
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The High Court of Justice on Thursday swiftly rejected requests for a freeze in the state's massive polio vaccination program.

The court did not elaborate on the grounds for its decision.

The decision came shockingly fast, only hours after the state filed its response to defend the program against the petition by the group 'Returning Balance'.

Going on the offensive, the state said that failure to undertake its already started nationwide vaccination campaign would be an unacceptable "risk of people's lives." The state said that many people's lives could be in danger if a more limited campaign was followed, responding only to already identified outbreak areas, in order to avoid vaccinating people where the virus was not hitting.

The state said that the uncertainty and danger were too great to gamble on such a more conservative vaccination campaign and could even lead to other countries and world health bodies issuing warnings for visiting Israel and placing Israel with a group of third-world countries considered polio risks.

In that respect, the state noted that its vaccination campaign was approved and recommended by top global experts on the issue.

Some 170,000 children around the country out of a total of one million have already received an oral polio vaccine in a campaign due to proceed over the next three months. The Health Ministry announced earlier this week that 35,000 had received two drops of OPV on Tuesday alone.

This brought the total of the national campaign to 74,000 children over three days, in addition to the more urgent vaccination effort, now in its third week, being held in the south of the country, where the wild polio virus was found in sewage and in a few dozen carriers.

No one has taken sick with the paralytic disease since the virus was first detected in sewage treatment plants in February.


The petition argued that the state had presented the campaign without sufficient public debate and analysis of the issue.

The petitioners also insisted that the state had only provided parents with the positives of the state?s vaccination campaign, without fully informing parents of the negatives.

For example, the petitioners said that the state has obscured the point that most children being vaccinated are not being vaccinated to protect themselves but to prevent them from being carriers for those not vaccinated.

The state responded more specifically to some of these issues, saying that 40 out of 42 persons carrying the new polio virus (no one has gotten sick from it yet) were children under 10 who had received only the dead-virus version of the vaccine.

It's point was to justify the vaccinating specifically of younger children who have only received the "dead-virus" vaccine as being more at risk unless they receive the "live-virus" vaccine, which is currently being distributed.

The state emphasized that it gave a more comprehensive answer than the court had demanded of it and prior to the court-set deadline because it believed that "there is great importance for a final decision on the petition and for the request for an interim order, in order to remove the 'legal cloud' from the vaccination campaign."

It concluded that this was especially true since "portions of the general public are holding off getting vaccinated because of the ongoing legal proceeding."

Judy Siegel contributed to this story.

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