Health Ministry may recommend mandatory coronavirus vaccine law

A survey in September found that about 20% of Israelis would not take a coronavirus vaccine if it was approved for use.

Coronavirus vaccine under development (illustrative) (photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)
Coronavirus vaccine under development (illustrative)
(photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)
The Health Ministry may recommend legislation requiring Israeli citizens to receive a coronavirus vaccine once one is available, according to Yediot Aharonot.
The possible recommendation was discussed during a meeting last week by the team that advises the ministry on epidemics.
"Procedural and legal incentive plans must be prepared for the public to be vaccinated and a vaccination obligation must be examined in legislation," read a summary of the meeting, according to the newspaper.
The move is meant to overcome hesitations by parts of the public against vaccinating. Many Israelis may not want to take the vaccination when it is first released.
The team has expressed concerns in the past about Israelis not being willing to vaccinate and has recommended a number of steps, including increasing public education on the matter.
"In principle, the State of Israel has to this day refrained from requiring any vaccines in legislation," attorney Adi Niv-Yagoda told Yediot Aharonot. "There are many informative operations about the importance of immunization in order to establish trust in the vaccines that the state offers and recommends, and the result is that the immunization rate here is one of the highest in the world in routine vaccines."
"An obligation in legislation to get vaccinated, contrary to the will of the individual, constitutes a fatal violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual," added Niv-Yagoda, explaining that such legislative tools are ineffective.
"We do not see people tied up in order to get vaccinated, so a law of this kind is not applicable," said the attorney. "The way to achieve high immunization coverage is through advocacy and building trust between the government and the public."
Health Ministry director-general Prof. Hezi Levy told Ynet on Tuesday that he "would like to push forward a law like this and to require people for whom there isn't a health risk to get vaccinated."
"I do not believe there is anyone who will not want to, but at the moment there is no such law," added Levy. "We are in discussions with the legal counsel on this matter, and are seeing if there is a way to require this; there is currently no such way. Because of the model of this plague, one has to find a way to force people to get vaccinated."
Experts from the Midaat association called on the government to adopt a bill proposed by the association to encourage vaccinations by providing proper information to the public and being transparent about vaccine data.
Madat recommended that the government emphasize the importance of vaccinations without forcing citizens to vaccinate.
A bill proposed by Midaat offers a broad solution based on making tailored, accessible messages for the public with an emphasis on community medicine and transparency about vaccine data.
"The bill emphasizes the importance of direct information and direct contact with the Israeli public in general and parents in particular, in order to remove concerns that often arise from unfounded rumors or a lack of sufficient knowledge of the field," said Midaat in a press statement.
The law has already passed a first reading in the Knesset. Midaat, a non-profit association, works to educate the Israeli public to help it find necessary medical information, identify health risks and protect itself from those risks.
Fewer than three in four people (73%) would agree to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it were to come out, a survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Ipsos found.
In September, a survey conducted by Assuta Medical Centers in conjunction with Midgam found that about 20% of Israelis would not take a coronavirus vaccine if it was approved for use.
Israeli officials claimed on Monday that they are in advanced negotiations with the biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc., after the company announced its vaccine candidate was found to be at least 90% effective.
Finance Minister Israel Katz also said on Monday that the country had asked the US government to help it access Pfizer’s potential coronavirus vaccine. He said he had discussed the vaccine during talks with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Last week, Israel kicked off its human trial of Brilife, its coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research.
Tamar Beeri and Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.