The Health Ministry banned 14 children from two preschools in a small community in northern Israel because they have not been vaccinated against measles, amid a months-long outbreak of the disease that has resulted in at least two deaths.
The regulation exercised by northern district physician Prof. Shmuel Rishpon is usually reserved for epidemics and has not been employed since the 1990s.
In a letter to the mayor of Harish, Yitzhak Keshet, explaining his decision, Rishpon noted that six children in the community’s educational institutions have come down with measles recently.
Rishpon noted that while more than 300 children in the community were vaccinated in a two-day campaign this month, the parents of 14 children who are enrolled in the Nahman and Ma’ayan Emuna kindergartens refused to have them immunized.
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“The unvaccinated children are liable to come down with measles soon and to infect children who cannot be vaccinated (infants as well as children with compromised immune systems), and pregnant women for whom the disease could be serious and even fatal,” he wrote.
Rishpon said he was enforcing paragraph 19 of a national health ordinance with regard to forcing people to be vaccinated. The district physician said the children could not return to kindergarten until they begin their vaccination schedules.
The ordinance from 1940 permits forced inoculation in times of a risky epidemic. Paragraph 19 has been enforced twice in Israel, in 1949 when smallpox was diagnosed in the country and during a measles outbreak in the 1990s.
In recent months pediatricians and public health physicians have expressed support for keeping unvaccinated children out of school. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman has also expressed support for this step.
In May the Petah Tikvah district physician, Dr. Eran Koppel, cautioned residents of the West Bank settlement of Itamar that he’d use paragraph 19 against them and impose fines even incarceration against those who fail to immunize against the contagious disease, after six people were diagnosed with the illness there.
Koppel wrote a warning letter to Samaria District Council head Yossi Dagan, and Itamar residents began getting vaccinated afterward, sources in the Health Ministry said.