A French parliamentarian received a COVID-19 vaccine in Israel, despite appearing not to meet Health Ministry requirements, as the country’s top health official confirmed Monday that non-citizens over 60 can receive free injections.
Meir Habib, 59, tweeted a photo of himself last week getting an injection, with posters of the Clalit health maintenance organization in the background.
“Proud to be the first French politician to be vaccinated!” Habib said. “France and Israel together for a 2021 full of life, promises and hope.”
In a phone call Monday with Channel 12 news, Habib said he was vaccinated “like all those over 60.” Asked if he was 60, Habib said, “yes, yes… no, I’m 60… yes, 59. What’s the question please?”
Habib added that he had no issue getting a vaccine and said he has been in Israel “for the past month-and-a-half, like every Israeli-French [person].”
He ended the call after being asked if he has health insurance in Israel, saying he was in a meeting.
Habib, who represents a constituency for French citizens living abroad that includes Israel, is a longtime friend of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Fier d’être le premier politique français à être vacciné! Je l’ai fait en conscience et confiance. Je me sens bien! Faisons le pari français de l’avenir et de la science. ???????? ???????? Ensemble pour une année 2021 pleine de vie, de promesses et d’espoir. #vaccincovid #bonneannee2021 ! pic.twitter.com/vvXj82k1Sk
— Meyer Habib (@Meyer_Habib) December 31, 2020
Responding to the report, the director-general of the Health Ministry said non-citizens who are over 60 can be vaccinated at the state’s expense, “but the regulation didn’t intend this.”
“They can spread the disease like anyone else,” Chezy Levy told the TV channel. “The intention is not to vaccinate tourists, but rather foreign residents residing in Israel, working in Israel, caring [for the elderly] in Israel. Some of them maybe are illegal or uninsured, but they’re here and can infect and can get sick.”
In the interview, Levy also said Israel was making “tremendous” efforts to bring more vaccines to the country, amid concerns over a shortage of doses.
According to Hebrew media reports Sunday, Israel will next week slow down or even completely stop vaccinating people with the first dose of the Pfizer inoculation.
The pause in the vaccination drive will not affect the administration of the second dose of the vaccine to the 1.2 million who received the first shot. But the healthcare system may stop scheduling appointments for the first dose of the vaccine as a stopgap measure, until further deliveries of the vaccine arrive in Israel, the reports said.
The reports came as Health Minister Yuli Edelstein on Monday morning said 1,224,000 Israelis had received the first dose of the shot, some 12 percent of the country’s population.