A stream of hate messages was directed at a top Health Ministry official on Monday evening as she participated in an online broadcast aimed at calming public concerns over COVID-19 vaccines for children.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, the Health Ministry’s head of public health and a top COVID adviser to the government, has been repeatedly threatened by anti-vaccine activists and conspiracy theorists who view her as the public face of the health system’s inoculation effort.
“Monster,” wrote one user as Alroy-Preis was joined by comedian Nadav Abuksis in the live transmission on the Health Ministry’s Facebook page.
Alroy-Preis was answering questions from the public about the vaccinations, which are expected to be approved in Israel this week, but some used the opportunity to attack her instead.
“Disappear from the world, witch,” wrote one user. Other taunts included “you don’t want to know what I wish for you” and “someone should slap her.”
Abuksis was also targeted, with one user writing, “How much money is Nadav getting to cooperate with murderers?”
Others sent messages of support, thanking Alroy-Preis for her work and offering encouragement while condemning those who criticized her.
The broadcast was arranged as the Health Ministry announced Monday that a Wednesday meeting of an advisory panel that will decide on approving coronavirus vaccines for children aged 5-11 will be held behind closed doors.
“All the considerations for and against the decision were deliberated, including the ability to have a free and open dialogue on such a sensitive and crucial matter amid the backdrop of widespread violent discourse, which could impact the course of the meeting,” the ministry said.
“Some people fear exposure and potential threats from vaccine opponents,” panel member and Health Ministry infectious diseases official Dr. Tal Brosh told Channel 12 news.
The Health Ministry had broadcast deliberations about okaying the vaccine for kids last week, aiming to push back at accusations of opaque decision-making. The Health Ministry allowed the public to listen in for five hours to for the sake of transparency, with some pre-approved members of the public allowed to weigh in with questions in real-time.
The discussion came days after the US Food and Drug Administration granted the vaccine authorization for the age group, paving the way for the US to begin immunizing younger kids.
The Health Ministry is widely expected to follow the FDA’s lead and approve the vaccine for children ages 5-11.
On Sunday Channel 12 reported that police decided to increase the security around Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash, raising his threat level to six, the same as that of Alroy-Preis.
Visiting the studios of major new networks channels 12 and 13 on Friday, Alroy-Preis admitted that the threats were “scary” but said she had no intention of taking a step back from the public spotlight as a result.
The increased threats “began surrounding the issue of children’s vaccination, when it began being discussed there came an entire wave of very clear threats, to hang [me], to burn, etcetera” she told Channel 12.
She provided further details on Channel 13: “It goes to some very dark places — murder, hanging, doing bad things to my children, comparisons to the Nazis, there’s no end to it.”
Last Tuesday police arrested and question two men from northern Israel over suspected online threats against Alroy-Preis. They were later released under certain restrictions, and the investigation is ongoing.
Police have since ordered a full-time security detail to Alroy-Preis.
Protests held outside Alroy-Preis’s home earlier this year included chants of “Nazi murderer” and “daughter of the devil,” while some in attendance wore yellow stars comparing COVID restrictions to the Holocaust.