Israel's coronavirus czar said on Wednesday that the country should consider a vaccination mandate in light of the new Omicron coronavirus strain found in Israel and presumed to be fast spreading.
"I think we need to examine all the options, including the option of mandating vaccination in the State of Israel," Prof. Salman Zarka told Radio 103FM.
However, that the position was his own opinion, Zarka said and does not reflect any policy decision or action taken by the Health Ministry or the government.
“This option of mandating a vaccine in the State of Israel, similar to several countries in the world, whether in the context of legislation or in the context of other means, must be examined, it must be considered,” he said.
Austria and Greece have both said they would fine their citizens who refuse to receive the coronavirus vaccines and incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also said he was in favor of the policy.
Zarka was adamant that the most potent tool in fighting the pandemic is and remains the vaccines.
“There are 680,000 people in Israel who have not been vaccinated at all. We are constantly trying to reach them,” Zarka said. “It is quite clear to me that they are not vaccine refusers, but looking at what happened to us in the fourth wave of epidemic, which hit the unvaccinated more than others, one has to consider how such people will be vaccinated.”
Health Ministry's Head of Public Health Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis expressed her opposition to mandating vaccines, in an interview with Ynet on Wednesday. In her view, there is no justification for such a move.
"I don't think we have reached that stage, but I do believe future actions will be considered," she said. "I don't think we're in that sort of an emergency. However, we are in a worrying period of time and are taking all necessary measures."
She also called on parents to allow their children to receive the vaccine, despite comments made by Moderna CEO that the inoculation might lose efficacy against the Omicron variant.
Minister for Social Equality Merav Cohen on Wednesday said she opposes a vaccine mandate but called for more mitigation steps including shutting down the international airport for all but emergency travel.
First published: 12:48, 12.01.21