Israel’s new government is desperate to get the remaining eligible sectors of society vaccinated against COVID-19, believing that will enable the nation to overcome the rising wave of infections connected to the Delta variant.
But is it legal to dole out coronavirus vaccine shots at public schools? Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton says it is not.
Israel approved the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15 earlier this summer, even before the FDA had done so. And that age group makes up a large portion of the one million eligible Israelis who remain unvaccinated.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been urging the public on an almost daily basis to close this gap in Israel’s vaccination record lest rising infection rates lead to another lockdown.
Shasha-Biton is by no means against the vaccine, even among children, but believes the government is pushing too hard, and might even be crossing the line of what’s legal.
“Go out and get vaccinated,” the minister said in an interview on Channel 12 on Wednesday. “We are just 35 days from the start of the school year. Get vaccinated! No one is saying otherwise.”
But, Shasha-Biton continued, “to do that at schools is criminal, in my estimation. We are talking about children who have been stuck at home for a year-and-a-half and who are on edge emotionally. It is a sensitive topic that will put undue pressure on these children.”
The gist is that some Israeli parents don’t want their young children to be vaccinated with a vaccine that even Pfizer acknowledges hasn’t yet been properly tested on that age group, even if it is presently deemed “safe.” Putting vaccination stations in schools could bring about peer pressure that results in those children going against their parents’ wishes.
There continues to be a tense back-and-forth between the ministries of Health and Education on how to handle the upcoming school year. The Delta variant is highly contagious, and unlike the earlier strains of COVID-19 it seems to be spreading fast among children. At the same time, almost none have become seriously ill due to infection.