High Court halts transfer of info on unvaccinated to local authorities

Citing privacy concerns, judges order state bodies to explain why law allowing Health Ministry to hand over details on those who are not inoculated is in effect

A High Court of Justice hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on May 4, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)
A High Court of Justice hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, on May 4, 2020. (Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

Israel’s top court on Tuesday issued a temporary injunction barring the Health Ministry from handing local authorities information on those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine.

The High Court of Justice also instructed state bodies and health providers to explain why legislation allowing the ministry to do so has not been scrapped. They were given until Sunday afternoon to submit a response.

The controversial law, which was approved last month by the Knesset, authorizes the Health Ministry to transfer data to municipalities and the Education Ministry for a three-month period. The legislation is aimed at encouraging the unvaccinated to be immunized and prohibits the use of the information for other purposes.

In their decision, the judges cited the laws “harming of the constitutional right to privacy” guaranteed in Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws.

The next hearing is set for March 16 with an expanded bench of seven judges.

The court ruling came in response to petitions against the law by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Physicians for Human Rights–Israel. Opposition lawmakers, the Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians, and others have also expressed opposition to the legislation, on privacy grounds.

An Israeli receives a COVID-19 vaccine shot at a Leumit vaccination center in Tel Aviv, March 8, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Also Tuesday, a labor court in Tel Aviv allowed a town in central Israel to furlough an assistant at a special education school who has refused to be vaccinated.

“These are children with special needs, and sending them to quarantine in case of the assistant being ill is not similar to quarantine for a regular person,” Kochav Yair–Tzur Yigal Mayor Yuval Arad said during the hearing, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

The assistant’s lawyer argued that the assistant had the right not to be vaccinated and cannot be compelled to do so.

The ruling came after Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said last month that he was considering proposing legislation that would enable employers to prevent workers who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus from coming in to work.

According to a report Monday, Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem recently placed 80 staff members who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus on unpaid leave.

Illustrative: A Hadassah medical staff member receives a COVID-19 vaccine at Hadassah Ein Kerem, on December 20, 2020, in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hadassah CEO Zeev Rotstein has taken a harsh stance against vaccine refusers – those who choose not to take the vaccine, as compared to those who are unable to do so. According to the Haaretz daily, in January, Rotstein announced that unvaccinated employees of Hadassah would not be able to come into work during the lockdown, and that these missed workdays would be deducted from their vacation time.

Earlier this month, the hospital’s management decided to generally prohibit medical staff members who have not been vaccinated from treating patients. The hospital told workers that doctors and nurses who have not taken COVID-19 shots or acquired some level of immunity by recovering from the virus will find themselves resigned to administrative roles or any other position that the hospital sees fit.

The announcement prohibiting patient contact with unvaccinated workers came on the heels of a Health Ministry directive that calls for unvaccinated staff and students to be barred from working in certain departments across Israeli hospitals and in community healthcare. They include wards for people in a state of immunosuppression, including oncology; wards with pre-term infants; and those with bone marrow transplant patients.

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