Netanyahu said to be against potential law to mandate virus vaccine

Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have said the premier is currently not in favor of a law to make the coronavirus vaccine compulsory, the Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday.

However, according to the report there were ongoing discussions over whether individuals holding public office could be compelled to receive the vaccine.

The discussions took place amid worries that many Israelis will not want to be vaccinated. Earlier this week the Israel Democracy Institute published the results of a poll that found most Israelis do not want to be among the first group of people given a coronavirus vaccine.

On Thursday Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch denied any such plan for compulsory vaccination after a report said Health Minister Yuli Edelstein is looking at legislation that would make it compulsory for all Israelis to be inoculated against the coronavirus.

Illustrative: A nurse prepares to inject a vaccine in Milan, Italy, Nov. 4, 2020 (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

“My policy is that everyone who wants a vaccine should be able to receive one,” Netanyahu said on Friday, alluding to recent government denials that it intended to make the vaccine mandatory.

In 2018 a bill was tabled amid a measles outbreak which was meant to both encourage vaccinations and give authorities the power to ban unvaccinated children from all educational frameworks. The legislation was also meant to obligate the Health Ministry to promote immunization and penalize parents who adamantly refuse to immunize their children for anything other than medical reasons

However although the bill passed its preliminary and first Knesset readings almost unanimously, it was then referred to the Knesset Health Committee, where it languished amid Israel’s ongoing political turmoil and elections. Additionally, none of the MKs who drafted the bill are still in parliament.

The Kan report came as Israel was holding talks to secure “millions” of doses of British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is currently under trial.

According to Channel 12 news, Israel has procured 10 million doses of the vaccine — enough for five million people to have the necessary two doses.

The deal would be the third signed by Israel to receive vaccinations following similar deals with Moderna and Pfizer. Israel is also in talks with Russia to receive its “Sputnik V” vaccine.

Pfizer said Friday it is asking US regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as next month.

Illustrative: Vials with COVID-19 vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German partner BioNTech, on November 17, 2020. (Justin Tallis/AFP)

Moderna is also expected to seek emergency authorization within weeks.

AstraZeneca is not as far along in the process, but the company announced Thursday that in initial trials its vaccine has shown to safely produce a robust immune response in healthy older adults.

The Kremlin issued a statement saying Putin and Netanyahu had discussed potential cooperation regarding the Russian vaccine, including supplying it to Israel and even producing it in the Jewish state.

Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is backing the country’s vaccine program, said last week its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine has so far been shown to be 92% effective.

A vial of Russia’s experimental Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, in Moscow, Russia, September 15, 2020. (Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP)

Israel has shown interest in the vaccine ever since Russia announced that it was ready for human trials, and in early November the director of Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center said the hospital had ordered 1.5 million units of the vaccine and would apply for Health Ministry approval for their use, pending the phase 3 trials.

Israel is also working on a homegrown vaccine, though it is currently only in phase 1 trials and its development is expected to take months longer than the foreign candidates.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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