JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel’s coronavirus czar Prof. Salman Zarka said Wednesday that Israel should consider making COVID vaccines compulsory, but stressed it was only his opinion and does not reflect any actual government policy.
“I think we need to examine all the options, including the option of mandating vaccination in the State of Israel,” Zarka told Radio 103FM in an interview.
Zarka previously opposed a vaccine mandate but said his opinion changed due to the new Omicron variant. Zarka believes more can be done to keep unvaccinated individuals from experiencing the brunt of the disease and hospitalizations.
“There are 680,000 people in Israel who have not been vaccinated at all. We are constantly trying to reach them,” he added. “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.”
He clarified that his comments were his opinion alone and said there would be no “surprise” law mandating vaccines in Israel.
“I am not familiar with any legal work on the issue. There is no legislative process or legislative work on the table. We are not at the practical level that today a law is going to suddenly be introduced in order to require vaccines,” he said.
Health Ministry's Head of Public Health Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis told Israel’s Ynet news agency she opposes a vaccine mandate.
“The Health Ministry needs to do everything we can to make the vaccines accessible, to explain, to show the data,” she said. “I do not think vaccinations should be mandatory, but I assume that over time, things will continue to be weighed in all directions. I think we should not get to these places.”
Israel is already taking steps to get ahead of the Omicron variant. Those measures include closing its doors to tourists and tracking the cellphone data of confirmed Omicron patients.
As of Wednesday night, there are two confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in Israel and the number of serious cases of coronavirus is still declining.