Israel considers making COVID vaccines mandatory

While Israel’s coronavirus czar seemed alarmed about the new variant, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Tuesday that “the situation is under control.”

By Tobias Siegal, World Israel News

Coronavirus czar Salman Zarka has proposed making COVID vaccines mandatory in Israel, Hebrew language media reported.

Speaking on 103FM Radio on Wednesday morning, Zarka addressed the rate of vaccinations in the country, suggesting that making vaccines mandatory might soon be required.

“The current approach in Israel is more permitting, allowing, it gives people time to make a decision,” he said.

“This comes with a price,” he noted, adding that “we need to ask ourselves – what are our priorities when unvaccinated and vaccinated patients are hospitalized – who do we connect to the ventilator?”

Salman argued that the new Omicron variant, which has caused concern among health experts around the world, requires us to adapt to a new reality.

“The new variant has reminded us that the virus is here to stay,” he stated. “A week ago I was cautious about using the words ‘fifth wave’ but today I’m more concerned.”

Addressing recent decisions made in Austria in regard to the virus, Salman said: “I think what happened in Austria, when they imposed a quarantine only on the unvaccinated, was wrong. It’s a slippery slope. We need to consider all other alternatives, including making vaccines mandatory in Israel.”

The health official noted that such a move would need to be carefully examined and to be approved legally. Until then, he said, we must raise awareness and “make people get the vaccine.”

Salman noted that his comments did not reflect a change in the Health Ministry’s policy at this point.

While Zarka seemed alarmed about the new variant and its potential implications in Israel, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Tuesday that “the situation is under control and there’s no need to panic” during a press conference held at Soroka Medical Center.

“We expected a new variant to reach Israel, we prepared for it and we’re ready. We might see another variant in the future, and we’re ready for that as well. Our policy is living alongside the virus, which means maintaining everyone’s health but also keeping the economy open.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that a new vaccine will probably not be required for dealing with the Omicron variant, but noted that minor changes might need to be made to existing vaccines in order to increase their efficiency against the mutation.