Prisoners to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines next week

"We must not back down from our sacred Jewish and Democratic values that are a moral compass for us," said Rivlin.

President Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
A spokesman for Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Thursday that prisoners are expected to begin receiving novel coronavirus vaccinations next week after he received a letter from President Reuven Rivlin.
Edelstein’s spokesman also reiterated the health minister’s commitment to the professional committee that had recommended vaccinating prisoners, saying that Edelstein “made sure the decision would be in the hands of the Prioritization Committee alone and not in the hands of politicians, so that the decisions would be purely professional.”
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana had opposed the vaccination of prisoners, claiming that the vaccines were a national asset and should not be used for prisoners.
Disturbed by reports that individuals who have been incarcerated are low on the list of priorities for inoculation, President Reuven Rivlin wrote to Edelstein to inquire what the Ministry’s policy is with regard to vaccinating prisoners against COVID-19.
Referring to a December 23 decision by the relevant Health Ministry committee to vaccinate the groups most susceptible to infection, particularly those in the 60-plus age group, Rivlin noted that there are people within this category who are in prison after being convicted or resulting from a court order. The second priority was given to those sectors of society that are most exposed.
Rivlin noted that such people include prison guards and people who are incarcerated, who are all in close physical contact with each other.
In his letter, Rivlin wrote that he has been following with concern reports of a decision indicating that prisoners will not be vaccinated. He added that he supports Edelstein’s decision to abide by the position of the Ministry’s professional committee, which has determined that prisoners should be vaccinated, based on the principle that it is preferable to inoculate the whole population rather than allow the virus to spread.
The president emphasized that withholding any form of life-saving medication runs counter to Jewish values and the values of a Jewish and democratic state.
Some 30 prisoners of the Ramon prison have been diagnosed with coronavirus, Israel’s Prisons Service announced later on Thursday.
All 30 are asymptomatic and in good condition. They will be moved to coronavirus quarantine areas according to Health Ministry regulations.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent an urgent appeal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Monday, urging him to instruct Ohana to enable the vaccination of seniors in prison facilities.
Ohana has declined to so until now, even though Deputy Attorney-General Amit Marari ruled that the public security minister did not have the authority to prevent the shots.