Israel Backtracks on Closing COVID Vaccination Center for Asylum Seekers

Vaccinations will resume, but from Tuesday on, second jabs only ■ 'The allocations for this population have run out,' Health Ministry says, according to sources

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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A woman receives her COVID-19 vaccine at a center for Israel's foreign workers and asylum seekers.
A woman receives her COVID-19 vaccine at a center for Israel's foreign workers and asylum seekers. Credit: Hadas Parush
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The Health Ministry on Tuesday backtracked on a previous decision to close a Tel Aviv coronavirus vaccination center that was serving local migrant workers and asylum seekers. 

Authorities previously announced that the center would close Wednesday, despite the high response to the vaccination campaign, and even though tens of thousands are yet to be vaccinated.

Under the new decision, the clinic will close on Wednesday, but will resume vaccinating locals on Thursday though  Monday. From Tuesday on, only second jabs will be administered, and the provision of first doses of the vaccine will likely cease.

Non-status people will also be able to be vaccinated on Wednesday at the Haifa Theater compound, between 2 P.M. and 7 P.M. Most of the foreign worker population in Israel lives in the Tel Aviv area.

The vaccination center, which opened two weeks ago in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood in Tel AviV was supposed to remain operational until Friday. Its operation was being extended every couple of days based on demand, which was high; from February 9 through Tuesday, some 10,500 people were vaccinated at the center. Demand for the vaccine gradually increased from 700 on the first day the center opened to a peak of 950 on Monday.

Locals line up to get their coronavirus vaccine at the center for Israel's foreign worker population, earlier this month.Credit: Hadas Parush

Professionals involved were surprised by the ministry’s announcement, which came only one day after the Tel Aviv municipality and Ichilov Hospital published an ad in Tigrinya, a language of Eritrea, calling on pregnant women to get vaccinated.

“The rationale behind opening and closing [vaccination] centers is a combination of vaccine supply, priorities for assigning workers, and the demand in the field,” the Health Ministry said of their previous decision. “More than 10,000 doses have been allocated for the second shot in Tel Aviv. We are progressing in a measured fashion, and as needed. This is not a retraction of the decision [to vaccinate those without residency status].”

Sources familiar with the details said the ministry told them that “the allocations for this population have run out.” 

The Tel Aviv municipality said, “No more vaccines were allocated to Ichilov, so at this stage vaccinations at the center for the foreign community have been suspended. Next week administration of the second doses of the vaccination will resume for those who have already been vaccinated.”

In response to the decision, the Mesila agency, which assists the foreign worker community, issued an announcement in English that the compound was closing but that those who have received the first dose can come get the second.

Dr. Zoe Gutzeit, director of the migrant and refugee department at Physicians for Human Rights, said, “In Israel there are tens of thousands of stateless people who have not yet been vaccinated.”

She said that the sudden closure “confirms what we already know: that for the Health Ministry there are people whose lives are less valuable, and that irrelevant considerations are once again outweighing public health considerations. The Health Ministry should have offered a worthy alternative for those who haven’t yet been vaccinated.”

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