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Report: Dozens of medical staff who refused vaccine catch COVID-19

Israel’s largest hospital sees 55 nurses, 11 doctors infected; only 70%-90% of medical workers have taken the shots, with doctors slightly less hesitant than nurses

Illustrative: A Sheba staff member receives the second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, on January 10, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Sheba staff member receives the second shot of a COVID-19 vaccine at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, on January 10, 2021. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Medical workers may have been given priority status when it came to COVID-19 vaccine access in Israel, but that doesn’t mean the vaccine is necessarily a priority for all of them.

According to a report by Channel 12 News Wednesday, only 70-90 percent of medical workers in Israel have vaccinated against the coronavirus. On average, doctors are more likely to take the shots than other medical workers, such as nurses.

According to the report, Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel’s largest hospital, has recently seen 11 doctors and 55 other unvaccinated workers infected with the coronavirus. Other hospitals saw smaller, but significant infection numbers: Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem and Hillel Yaffe in Haifa each had 18 medical staff members who tested positive; Asuta in Ashdod had 17, four of them doctors; and Galilee Medical Center in the northern city of Nahariya saw 13 of its unvaccinated staff members test positive.

In all, 164 unvaccinated medical staff were recently infected.

Channel 12 reported Tuesday that the government is planning on making inoculation mandatory for medical workers in Israel — with the alternative being constant testing.

The government has seen signs that many in the public at large are also hesitant to vaccinate and has been cultivating plans that incentivize those who receive the inoculations. According to other reports Wednesday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein will promote legislation aimed at reducing the number of unvaccinated people in public-facing workplaces by only allowing in workers who have been vaccinated, have recovered from the coronavirus, or have recently tested negative.

According to a report by the Ynet news site, the legislation will be promoted in the coming days and is aimed at initially focusing on teaching staff who refuse to get inoculated, as children head back to classrooms across the country.

The law will include “restriction on entering the business by an employee who is not recovered [from the virus] or vaccinated, or who did not present a negative result at the workplace, at the place and time to be determined by regulations,” the report said.

The report said that the legislation would initially be targeted at teaching staff, medical workers and police officers, but that the bill will include the phrase that the regulations “shall be determined with due regard to the scope of the people who come into contact with the employee, their characteristics, the nature of the business and the occupation, as well as taking into account those who have a medical justification for not being vaccinated.”

The report did not give details on what sanctions those who refuse to get vaccinated or tested could face, or details on who would pay for the testing for those who still refuse the shots and how often they would be required. In the past, Edelstein has said teachers would need to pay for their own tests if they did not get inoculated. It is likely that testing will be required every 48-72 hours.

The proposal to compel some workers to vaccinate is expected to face widespread opposition from unions and civil rights organizations in the country.

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