Health Ministry weighs calling the cops on anti-vaxxers who fake appointments

Ministry also appeals to Facebook to take down posts by people bragging of forcing HMOs to toss vaccines by not turning up for their shots; health minister: they are ‘like a cult’

A man receives a Covid-19 vaccine injection, at Clalit Covid-19 vaccination center in Holon, February 4, 2021. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)
A man receives a Covid-19 vaccine injection, at Clalit Covid-19 vaccination center in Holon, February 4, 2021. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The Health Ministry is considering filing police complaints against anti-vaxxers who have been scheduling appointments to inoculate only to cancel them at the last minute, forcing HMOs to throw out unused doses, Hebrew media reported Thursday.

The Ministry has also asked Facebook to take down the posts of anti-vaxxers bragging about their exploits; the social media giant has pledged to keep anti-vaxxers and those spreading fake vaccination information off its platform but is failing to do, Channel 13 reported.

“If everyone who does not plan on getting vaccinated makes an appointment to vaccinate and then doesn’t come, we’ll finish the stock (in the trash) really quickly. Just saying,” read one post on Facebook.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said incidents like these were limited, but those trying to disrupt the vaccination drive were “a dangerous group who are ideologically opposed, like a cult.”

One Israeli hospital chief called the phenomenon “criminal” in an interview with Channel 13.

The concerns came to the fore as Israel’s death toll from COVID-19 topped 5,000 late on Thursday night. In addition, 1,040 Israelis are in serious condition with the virus.

Channel 13 also revealed that a voice recording was disseminated in parts of the ultra-Orthodox community in which listeners are implored, using fake statistics, not to go and vaccinate, claiming that those who do are at risk of falling ill or dying.

Health Ministry figures showed 7,385 new COVID-19 cases were confirmed on Wednesday. The ministry conducted roughly 86,000 tests, with 8.9 percent coming back positive.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 3rd left, visit a COVID-19 vaccination center in Sderot, southern Israel, January 27, 2021. (Liron Moldovan/POOL)

Meanwhile, the vaccination campaign continued, with the number of Israelis who have received the first dose rising to over three million and the number who have also received the second dose at 1.9 million.

With Israel’s mass vaccination program apparently losing steam, the country on Thursday opened inoculation to anyone over the age of 16.

Until Thursday, vaccines were available to at-risk groups and anyone over 35, with the elderly first to be immunized, as well as teens aged 16-18.

Despite the drop, and after the Health Ministry said on Wednesday that it would open vaccination to those 16 and up, there were reports that at least one of the country’s health maintenance organizations did not have enough shots to meet demand.

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