Tel Aviv Court Orders Mother to Vaccinate Her Two Children

Father pressed action, saying mother refused to vaccinate kids out of ‘messianic’ ideology

File photo: Health Ministry Chairman Moshe Bar Siman Tov visits a clinic in Jerusalem to evaluate the fight against the city's measles outbreak, May 27, 2019.
Health Ministry

The Tel Aviv Family Court has ordered a woman who objected to vaccinating her two children to do so within 14 days, in response to a suit filed by the children’s father. The children, ages 4 and 7, had never been vaccinated against measles and several other childhood diseases.

“Although I got the impression that the defendant is acting in accordance with her worldview for the children’s benefit, the arguments she made against vaccinating were general, vague and not backed by evidence,” wrote Judge Vered Shavit Finkelstein in her ruling. The judge also mentioned the public health aspect of unvaccinated children putting people in their environment at risk.

The parents, who had never married, had in the past been involved in various legal proceedings regarding custody and child support for the children. In the end, a parenting agreement was reached that covers all the issues; in that agreement the mother commits to making sure the children get all relevant health check-ups and the vaccines recommended by the Health Ministry.

In his suit, the father argued that not vaccinating the children puts them and others at risk, as there had been deaths affiliated with not being vaccinated. The father argued that the mother had no medical records indicating that the children were allergic to these vaccinations, but was acting irresponsibly out of a “messianic” ideology that opposes vaccines.

In her defense, the mother submitted a letter from a Dr. Haim Rosenthal, who stated that in his opinion it was worthwhile delaying vaccinations for the little girl, since the chance of her getting one of these childhood diseases was small, but the chance that one of the vaccines might cause an unwanted reaction or even a chronic condition exists and might even outweigh the advantages of vaccinating. As far as the boy was concerned, Dr. Rosenthal wrote that he had been born with a kidney problem and as a result his vaccines should also be delayed.

The mother also argued that her objection stemmed from the fear that the vaccinations would have side effects, as they had when she’d vaccinated in the past; these included convulsions, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, breathing problems and rashes. As for the parenting agreement the two had signed that included a commitment to vaccinate, she said she wasn’t aware of the children’s sensitivities when she signed it.

However, the father argued that Dr. Rosenthal didn’t know the children and doesn’t work for any HMO; according to the court, the Health Ministry had summoned him to a hearing on grounds that he was disseminating information against vaccinating either children or adults, which constituted deceiving the public and undermining public health.

In her ruling, the judge noted that the father had submitted an opinion from the director of the Child Health Center, Dr. Maharan Farhadian, which said, “There is paramount importance to vaccinating children and there is no danger in administering to healthy children vaccines approved by Health Ministry. However, there is a real danger posed by the diseases against which children are vaccinated and not vaccinating them exposes them to the risk of these diseases. Accordingly, Dr. Farhadian unequivocally recommended vaccinations for the children, even given the boy’s minor kidney problem.”

However the judge also took the father’s side because the mother submitted no official medical documents supporting her position, while the risk posed by measles and the need to vaccinate against it was proven.

“Measles is a very dangerous illness and there has recently been an increase in its incidence, therefore, to for the minors’ benefit, health and safety, there is no choice but to order them vaccinated,” the judge wrote. “The defendant did not present any document from the children’s physician testifying to the problems and sensitivities that she’s claiming, or of any risk to the children that could be posed by the shots. She hasn’t presented any medical document testifying that shortly after a previous vaccination there developed a serious reaction, as a result of which the children shouldn’t be vaccinated.

“All the defendant submitted was a letter from Dr. Rosenthal who wrote whatever he was told by the defendant, without examining the children in real time and without there being any objective indication of possible adverse reactions the minors could develop as a result of the vaccinations.”