Israeli HMOs refuse to give corona vaccine without legal protection against damages

HMOs threaten not to start vaccinating people until they get protection from lawsuits for any potential damages.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) warned Monday that they will refuse to give coronavirus vaccine shots unless the government steps in to protect them from lawsuits for any damages resulting from the vaccinations, Channel 11 reported.

“If the state does not take responsibility, we will not vaccinate even one person. We are not able to take such a risk, we are a business entity – we will collapse,” a senior HMO official told Kan News, Channel 11’s parent organization. “The Ministry of Health seems to be playing with us. In the end there is a nurse or a doctor who vaccinates and they do not know if they have insurance, or if they will find themselves in court in 10 years.”

During a visit on the weekend to the Tel Aviv coronavirus vaccine facility of the Maccabi HMO, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they will be playing a key role in the vaccination program.

“The ability of the country’s HMOs to carry out the mission shows us that we will apparently be able to bring forward vaccinating the population of Israel in the optimal manner,” Netanyahu said. “We are beginning the end of the pandemic.”

Health Ministry staff have been working to include the coronavirus vaccine in the Vaccine Victims Insurance Law but have yet to complete the work. As part of the agreements signed by Israel for procuring vaccines from different suppliers, Israel agreed not to sue them in the event of damage resulting from the vaccinations, the report said.

The HMOs also complained that they have not received enough information from the Health Ministry for training to qualify them to give the vaccinations, which Ministry officials said would begin on December 23, after vaccinations begin in hospitals next Sunday, December 20.

In the first few days, only between 20,000 and 30,000 vaccine doses are expected to reach the health funds, for fear of thawing the vaccines that must stored at minus-70 degrees. The doses come in trays of 1,000 doses that cannot broken into smaller batches. Therefore, in the first 10 days of the operation, the doses will be given only in large medical centers because the vaccine must be used within a day and a half of being removed from deep freeze.

With an opinion poll showing at least a third of Israelis unwilling to get the shot, hospital vaccinations will be given wide publicity in a bid to gain public confidence, with hospital and HMO managers getting inoculated as a personal example to the rest of the staff.

“We asked the hospital spokespersons to photograph the managers and the medical and nursing staff from all sectors to be vaccinated. These are ultra-Orthodox doctors, Russian-speaking, Amharic-speaking and Arabic-speaking, as well as nursing staff,” said Health Ministry Deputy Director Einav Shimron-Greenbaum, adding that the ministry would be running a major ad campaign on television and social media.

“We are getting a lot of calls from known personalities, TV presenters, media people and celebs who are willing to be broadcast getting vaccinated,” Shimron-Greenbaum said. “Medical staff … are the most significant channel for the promotion of vaccines. When doctors get vaccinated, it affects their patients. Nurses will also be vaccinated.”

The head of the public health services at the Health Ministry, Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price, warned Tuesday that any delay in administering the vaccinations would lead to a lockdown if infections keep climbing.

“If we wait too long, in the end the price is heavy for both the economy and health,” Elrai-Price told Ynet.

Health Ministry statistics released Tuesday morning showed infections in Israel continuing to rise with 2,279 new cases in the past day, the highest in two months.