Leading Israeli rabbi: Jewish law trusts vaccines

Although no coronavirus vaccines have been approved in Israel, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat says people should not fear inoculation.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Amid the first deliveries to Israel of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, a leading rabbi has declared that according to Jewish law people should get inoculated to save their lives.

Writing unequivocally on Facebook as an authority on halacha (Jewish law), Chief Rabbi of Tzfat Shmuel Eliyahu said that he had read extensive material on the supposed dangers of vaccines and was not convinced.

“After all this, I tell everyone to take vaccines. Those harmed by vaccines are very few and it is not at all certain that they died because of the vaccine. On the other hand, most people are cured and live thanks to vaccines and health systems,” he wrote.

Eliyahu cited the statistic that “At one time, 40% of children died by the age of 5. Today less than 1% of children die by age 5,” and continued, “Medicine and vaccines prove themselves … . Therefore, the halakha (Jewish law) says that you trust vaccines, you trust drugs.”

He told his followers not to listen to scaremongers because “they are playing with the lives of others, and perhaps also their own lives.”

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There are built-in precautions specifically for the Covid-19 vaccine, which has been rushed out in record time due to the virulent nature of the that has infected more than 69 million people worldwide and killed more than 1.5 million. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is meeting Thursday, is expected to approve the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus for emergency use only.

“Emergency use” means that the most important groups who need the vaccine the most would get it first. This includes the nation’s healthcare workers, and those in the high-risk category, such as the elderly and those who work with them. It is not yet being recommended for everyone. For example, pregnant women and children, who were not included in the Phase III trial of the drug, will not be given the two-injection dose.

Those with a history of severe allergic reactions were also excluded from the clinical trial. Caution will be taken with this group as well, after two healthcare workers needed treatment following allergic reactions to their injection in England, which began a mass inoculation program this week.

Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser to the American COVID-19 vaccine and treatment development program, told reporters Wednesday that “the expectation would be that subjects with known severe reactions, (will be asked) to not take the vaccine, until we understand exactly what happened here.”

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Israel is set to receive enough of the Pfizer vaccine in the coming months to shield about half of its population. The government has also pre-ordered millions of doses of vaccine candidates from other pharmaceutical companies, subject to their approval by the FDA.