Ministers on Sunday advanced a bill that would give Israeli authorities the power to ban entry to all educational frameworks any child or person who has not been vaccinated against a disease when there is a national concern over an outbreak of the illness.
The so-called “Vaccination Law” would apply to all schools — from kindergartens through universities — and comes in response to an outbreak of measles in Israel, which was blamed on those who were not immunized against the disease. Hundreds fell ill with the infectious virus this year, and an 18-month-old toddler died in Jerusalem, the first such death from measles in 15 years.
Zionist Union MK Yoel Hasson and Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, who wrote the bill in cooperation with a Midaat non-profit public health organization and other MKs, welcomed the approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The panel set up the bill for a preliminary Knesset vote later this week. The bill requires another three plenum votes to become law.
The bill, which is also supported by the Israel Medical Association and its pediatric division, lays out a national policy for vaccinations and how to deal with those who opt out of the preventive treatment, commonly known as anti-vaxxers.
There has been a growing phenomenon of parents refusing to vaccinate their children, due to various discredited and unproven claims that the life-saving practice is dangerous.
The bill proposes that “in circumstances when there is a concern of an outbreak of disease against which there is a routine vaccination, educational institutes will prevent the entry to the institute any child, teacher or other person who is not vaccinated against the disease, according to the directions of the director-general of the Health Ministry, for a suitable period.”
Children who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated, may be granted entry to schools with the approval of a medical expert. However, the Health Ministry will still have the authority to prevent the child entering if it is felt there is a danger to public health.
“We must deal with parents who do not vaccinate for lack of knowledge or for ideological reasons to bring about improved public health,” Moalem-Refaeli said.
“Now it will be possible to implement a national vaccination policy that defines principles and goals, which systematically addresses the refusal of vaccines, and which balances between maintaining public health and freedom,” Hasson said.
MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu), who also co-sponsored the bill, noted that “in recent weeks we’ve constantly heard about an outbreak of measles among us that even cost the life of a baby girl in a tragic disaster that could have been prevented.”
“As the mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old girl who this year for the first time went to a daycare program, I, like every parent, want to know that my daughter is free of such danger.”
At the beginning of the month, an infant girl died of measles in Jerusalem According to officials at the capital’s Shaare Zedek Hospital, the infant was not vaccinated against the virulently contagious disease.
The girl may have contracted the disease from her parents, both of whom were diagnosed with measles and neither of whom had been vaccinated.
Measles has made an aggressive return this year in the Israeli population, with the largest spread — 753 known infections — recorded in Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox community, due to a refusal by some radical segments of the community to be vaccinated.