Israel Debates Mandating COVID-19 Vaccines

Top government officials raise pros and cons of mandatory vaccines, but stress there are currently no plans to do so

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Coronavirus, Vaccine
Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Israel’s “Corona Czar” said last week that the Jewish state must consider mandating COVID-19 vaccines for all citizens. Other officials retorted that doing so would make Israel a dictatorship.

Israel is currently not mandating vaccination against coronavirus, though many have argued that there is heavy government coercion to get the jab.

Earlier in the year, Israel led the world in vaccination rates. But of late many other countries have passed the Jewish state in that regard. Today, 62.7% of Israel’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Government officials, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, insist that those sectors of society still refusing the vaccine are now threatening the success of Israel’s battle against the pandemic.

“There are 680,000 people in Israel who have not been vaccinated at all. We are constantly trying to reach them,” coronavirus czar Salman Zarka told Radio 103FM last week. “I think we need to examine all the options, including the option of mandating vaccination in the State of Israel.”

Zarka stressed that this was his personal opinion, and not something that is presently being considered by the Ministry of Health.

Official policy or not, the very mention of mandatory vaccination irked some in the government.

Only a “dictatorship” would go down this path, insisted Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin in remarks to Army Radio. “It is possible to encourage vaccination or give a negative incentive to the unvaccinated, but not to obligate it by law.”

But there is a good chance Israel will eventually mandate vaccination in light of decisions by several major European countries. Austria has announced that it will begin mandating vaccination from February of next year, Greece has already done so for citizens over the age of 60, and the new chancellor of Germany is in favor of doing the same.

Once these European countries begin mandating vaccination, it is not unreasonable to assume Israel will follow suit.

However, Israel is a more fractured society. Vaccination rates are still lowest among the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews, and it is difficult to see those sectors peacefully acquiescing to any government mandates.

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