Israel Bars 11 Children Not Vaccinated for Measles From Preschools

Health Ministry takes extraordinary measures after last year's jump in cases nationwide

File photo: An ultra-Orthodox child getting a measles shot, Jerusalem, November 2007.
Daniel Bar-On

The Health Ministry has banned children who have not received the measles vaccine from preschools in the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin.

In a letter Monday to Shlomo Ne’eman, head of the Gush Etzion council, Jerusalem district physician Dr. Chen Stein-Zamir wrote that she was invoking her authority to deny attendance to 11 children at the Shvilei Hinuch, Gan Hita and Gan Shibolim schools and day care programs because they have not been vaccinated.

Most of these children are aged between a year and 5, another is six-months-old and two are older than 6.

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“On January 10, 2019, the Jerusalem district health office conducted a campaign to finish vaccinating the children of the community. Thirty eight children were vaccinated… It was learned that many children in the community have still not been vaccinated against measles, despite all the information and explanations about the disease provided to the parents,” Stein-Zamir wrote.

The letter said that cases of measles have recently been discovered in the three preschools, “so there is a real danger of contagion.’

The letter also explains that children who have not been vaccinated could become ill and infect people who are at high-risk or those who are unable to receive the vaccine – such as infants, pregnant women and people with suppressed immune systems, “for whom the disease could be very serious and even lethal.”

Stein-Zamir said she was invoking the authority granted her by Section 19 of the Public Health Order, stating that children who have not received at least one dose of the measles vaccine shall immediately be barred from these schools.

Stein-Zamir is the second district physician from the Health Ministry to bar children who haven't been vaccinated for measles from attending school.

Until last month, this step had not been taken in close to three decades. Last month, Haifa district physician, Professor Shmuel Rishpon, barred 14 children in Harish who hadn't been immunized from attending school.

Dr. Eran Kopel of the Petah Tikva district had warned residents of the Itamar settlement in May he would invoked Section 19 if they failed to vaccinate their children and if residents "continued to endanger themselves and the health of the entire public.”

At the time, six people in Itamar had been diagnosed with measles. A public health order issued in 1940 forces vaccinations when an epidemic erupts that endangers the entire public.

Section 19 of that order, was invoked in 949, when cases of smallpox were diagnosed, and in the early 1990s, following a measles outbreak. The pediatricians’ association and public health physicians’ association have expressed support for keeping children who haven't been vaccinated away from school, as has Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

In 2018, more than 3,000 cases of measles were diagnosed in Israel, compared to just 34 in 2017. Two people have died as a result of complications of the illness, in the country's first fatalities due to the disease in 15 years.