Israeli Gov't Overrules Education Minister: Kids to Be Vaccinated in Schools

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An Israeli teen receives her coronavirus vaccine in Holon
An Israeli teen receives her coronavirus vaccine in HolonCredit: Hadas Parush

Director General of Israel's Health Ministry Nachman Ash signed a directive Wednesday that will allow schools to administer vaccinations during school hours, circumventing Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton who had previously voiced concern over in-school vaccinations.

The directive is based on the Public Health Ordinance from the British Mandate period, whose Clause 20 authorizes the health minister to declare an infectious disease a threat to public health, thus giving the government broad powers to combat it.

As published yesterday in Haaretz, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit drafted the proposal with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz in order to bypass the objection of Shasha-Biton. The Justice Ministry believes Shasha-Biton is not authorized to deny in-school vaccination of children whose parents agree to have them vaccinated during school hours.

Shasha-Biton served as chairwoman of the Knesset’s emergency coronavirus committee, where her vocal opposition to decisions recommended by the Health Ministry and accepted by Netanyahu earned her praise from the public.

Shasha-Biton has also been vocal in her opposition of vaccinating students in school, calling it "a crime" in an interview on Israeli television. She said such a program would put "social pressure" on students whose parents were opposed to vaccinations, at a time when schoolchildren were already suffering emotional distress as a result of the extended pandemic crisis. 

Mendelblit is expected to back the outline drafted by the health and education ministries, under which classes in cities with high coronavirus infection rates that have a vaccination rate under 70 percent will return to a distanced learning framework.

The Justice Ministry examined whether this decision would constitute discrimination against both unvaccinated students and vaccinated students in a class where the majority of students aren't willing to get vaccinated. The outline drew controversy from officials in the Justice Ministry, with some claiming it is illegal. Despite concerns, Mendelblit and Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri decided to back the outline.

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