חן ארצי סרור
Chen Artzi Sror
A police checkpoint during Israel's third pandemic-induced closure

Israelis need carrot not stick to get COVID vaccinated

Opinion: After year of dubious laws that have eroded civil rights in the name of fighting the virus, the government must now convince people to have the vaccine with an informative and targeted campaign, not threaten legal forcible inoculations

Chen Sror Artzi |
Published: 02.16.21 , 23:30
Over the passing year, we, the people of Israel, have seen many of our basic civil rights eroded in the name of the fight against the rampaging coronavirus pandemic.
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  • Some rights were crushed beneath restrictions born out of necessity, such as the those on movement, while other rules that were imposed were questionable at best, such as the Shin Bet security service tracking people's cell phones.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    אכיפת המשטרה את הסגר השלישי במחסום במחלף קוממיות
    אכיפת המשטרה את הסגר השלישי במחסום במחלף קוממיות
    A police checkpoint during Israel's third pandemic-induced closure
    (Photo: Police PR)
    These actions provoked no more than a symbolic reaction from the public, and even that muted reaction quickly faded due to a constant fear of losing control over the pathogen.
    Now, almost a year after the pandemic first broke out in Israel, people have grown accustomed to the nationwide closures the same way they have grown accustomed to receiving text messages from the Shin Bet as its agents track their movements.
    Israel recently decided to bring out the big guns to fight the virus, including possible legislation that would make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory and tracking those who refuse to receive the potentially life saving jab.
    All of this, coupled with the efficiency of Israel’s vaccination drive itself, may spell actual victory over this accursed virus.
    And while combating a global pandemic may justify such unusual methods and legislations, it could lead to a new, less-than-desirable status quo in which individual rights are routinely violated by the government.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    שוטרים אוכפים את הסגר השלישי בכיכר דיזנגוף
    שוטרים אוכפים את הסגר השלישי בכיכר דיזנגוף
    Police officers enforcing the third nationwide closure in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    The state has a myriad of effective tools at its disposal that could be used to encourage the public to get inoculated before it resorts to dramatic sanctions and laws that so blatantly invade one’s personal rights.
    And while there are indeed some who vehemently refuse to get the vaccine, they are actually few and far between.
    The majority of those who have not been inoculated are either afraid of the side effects of this new vaccine or simply do not believe that getting it is necessarily urgent.
    The best way to get these people on board is not by punishing them, but with an informative vaccination campaign tailored to each community.
    Magen David Adom, for example, rolled out a mobile vaccination center for all travelers visiting southern Israel to see the blooming flowers blanketing the fields, while the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak offered a warm bowl of thick meaty stew to all those getting inoculated.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    מבצע החיסונים בבני ברק
    מבצע החיסונים בבני ברק
    People waiting to get the inoculation in the Haredi city of Bnei Brak
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    This stroke of brilliance offered the city’s residents a small taste of pre-pandemic life, and inspired a similar campaigns in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv, where people were offered pizza, humus or knafeh with their jab.
    These symbolic treats are not a reward, but a sign that serves to remind us that receiving the inoculation is not a burden, but a tremendous privilege, a true celebration, and a mission that requires us all to work together if we are to ever return to normalcy.
    In recent days, the government has thrown around wild and irresponsible ideas, ranging from a reward for doctors who encourage their patients to get the vaccine to printing pamphlets shaming those who refuse.
    These are the kind of ideas that achieve nothing and only serve to further erode public trust.
    Now is the time for the state to turn to local community leaders and influential figures such as school principals, rabbis, athletes and artists.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    תורי ענק בהמתנה לקבל חיסון נגד קורונה בכיכר רבין, תל אביב
    תורי ענק בהמתנה לקבל חיסון נגד קורונה בכיכר רבין, תל אביב
    People queuing to get the inoculation in Tel Aviv
    (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
    The virus explanation campaign must be made to fit each distinct community and given substantial screen time by our local media in order to effectively fight the spread of unproven fears and fake news.
    Soon the malls and gyms will open in accordance with the government's decision, while hundreds of thousands will hear the reading of the Purim story in synagogues.
    The mobile vaccination centers must wait in these places to offer their services, preferably accompanied by bright smiles and a small treat.
    Trust in the public and they will come.

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