Vaccines should be mandatory for teachers - Health Min. D-G

"The goal is also to protect the teachers themselves, who have previously said that they feel as though they are walking into a battlefield unprotected."

Prof. Chezy Levy, designated to be the Health Ministry's director-general (photo credit: BARZILAI HOSPITAL)
Prof. Chezy Levy, designated to be the Health Ministry's director-general
(photo credit: BARZILAI HOSPITAL)
Vaccination should be a requirement for teachers, said Health Ministry Director-General Chezy Levy in an interview with 103FM on Wednesday.
"At the moment, the vaccine is the greatest opportunity reopen our society, bit by bit, not just the economy and schools, but our worlds of commerce and culture as well."

103FM:
If we [Israel] were to be given a grade for our handling of the education system [over the pandemic] and the return to normalcy, would we fail? 
Levy: I don't know if we would fail, and I don't want to hand out grades. However, we are opening schools at a time that is dangerous. We are currently at a very high infection rate, with a lot of patients in serious condition.
103FM: Did the Health Ministry not properly prepare for this, though?
Levy: They want to reopen as quickly as possible, to return Israeli students to their classrooms, which is extremely important — the government made that very clear. However, we are very much in the middle of an infection wave.
103FM: Would you not be interested in reopening schools right now?
Levy: I think it would be [more] appropriate for the younger age groups, even though infection is steadily rising even among children.
We are seeing this everywhere, all over the world. It is due to the variant which is also responsible for the scarily contagious spread.
103FM: So, [ideally, you would prefer if] only first and second graders were allowed back in person, none of the other grades?
Levy: Yes, assuming that social distancing restrictions are being met: no mixing between students and between classes, teachers not moving freely from one class to the other, and the maintaining of capsules to the best of everyone's ability.
After all, we understand the terrifying consequences of keeping these students at home — we want to be able to facilitate them having these important social interactions.
It's important to note that even during this reopening, most Israeli students remain at home.
103FM: Were you opposed to a more expansive reopening?
Levy: Absolutely.
103FM: And your stance wasn't accepted?
Levy: Well, middle schools haven't been reopened.
103FM: What about high schools? When will they reopen?
Levy: We are not opening them up yet. Once we have a chance to see how [schools] handle the current reopening, we will examine the possibility to reopen further to include more students.
This is all done with the utmost caution, to make sure we don't experience another rise in infections.
103FM: If, in two weeks, infections don't ease up, will you consider suggesting that the government begin to lockdown again?
Levy: It is possible. If we see that cases are climbing, and we can't reign in the spread, and it gets so bad that we have a lot of people sick, and a lot of people in serious conditions in hospital beds, it could be that we will need to slow down.
Precisely in order to avoid this, or at least reduce it, I am calling on everyone to go get vaccinated.
At the moment, the vaccine is the greatest opportunity reopen our society, bit by bit, not just the economy and schools, but our worlds of commerce and culture as well.
For some reason, people have been going to vaccination centers less and less. We will initiate a campaign to reach them wherever they are at. We are already in the midst of one.
103FM: The attorney-general said yesterday that it might be legal to force teachers to get the jab?
Levy: I would be extremely happy if that were the case. It is a legislative change — something we have the ability to do as a democratic state.
103FM: Is it constitutional though?
Levy: If he [the attorney-general] finds the legislative procedure to get it done, I would greatly support that. At a workplace where we know the welfare of the public — of children — is affected, I support the state and the employer requiring their employees to be protected by getting the vaccine.
Their position is no different than healthcare workers, who are required to get vaccinated.

103FM:
What do the prime minister and MKs think?
Levy: I think the prime minister has made it very clear that we need to do everything possible to get people vaccinated.
103FM: Is he [the prime minister] supportive of the move to force vaccination upon teachers?
Levy: You'd have to ask him. He, and many others, have expressed their opinion time and again that we should try to do everything to get everybody vaccinated.
Please note that the goal is also to protect the teachers themselves, who have previously said that they feel as though they are walking into a battlefield unprotected.
103FM: What about the younger children, those under the age of 16? Are you considering vaccinating them as well?
Levy: There were talks of the fact children in the age range of 12-16 are at an extremely high risk of infection, though nothing official has come out yet.
The trials that gave us the vaccine that we currently have included participants aged 16 and above. Right now, there's a push all over the world to complete more trials and get the vaccine out to 12-16-year-olds as soon possible, possibly in the spring.