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Vaccine panel adviser gets death threats over planned inoculation of children

Galia Rahav receives security detail as health experts expected to approve vaccine for ages 12-15 starting Sunday

Prof. Galia Rahav, Head of Sheba Medical Center's Infectious Disease Unit and Laboratory, looks at data on COVID-19 patients (courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)
Prof. Galia Rahav, Head of Sheba Medical Center's Infectious Disease Unit and Laboratory, looks at data on COVID-19 patients (courtesy of Sheba Medical Center)

A member of the Health Ministry panel that has been advising on COVID-19 vaccinations has received death threats during the process of approval for the inoculation of children, it was reported Tuesday.

Prof. Galia Rahav of Sheba Medical Center received threatening messages from anti-vaxxers online, including images of tombstones with her name and a “pulsa dinora,” a Jewish death curse that literally translates as “lashes of fire,” the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The hospital said it was coordinating with police over the threats and will provide Rahav with security at all times.

“Threats, violence, and aggressiveness should not dictate the path taken by a nation. Sheba experts will continue to express their professional position freely and publicly,” the hospital said in a statement.

Israelis sit near a vaccination center at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, December 31, 2020 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel is expected to begin vaccinating children aged 12-15 against the coronavirus from Sunday, pending final approval.

Vaccinations will initially be done at schools in order to reach as many children as possible, the report said, although parents will need to give their approval.

This was not the first time Rahav and other health officials have faced threats over the vaccination campaign. In March, Rahav received a message that read, “Galia, I hope and long for a day when God will soon take you,” while another described her as “Hitler’s future neighbor in hell.”

Other doctors have also said they have been compared to Nazis. Epidemiologist Prof. Hagai Levine, who previously served as the head of the doctors union, told Channel 12 news in March that he received phone calls and comments online in which he was compared to Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele, who performed medical experiments on humans.

Those threats were not the only time anti-vaccination activists have used Nazi imagery to attack Israel’s inoculation program. In several demonstrations, protesters equated the green pass system to the yellow stars of the Holocaust and the numbers Nazis tattooed onto the arms of concentration camp inmates, as well as comparing the vaccination campaign to Nazi laws.

Israelis wearing yellow Stars of David saying ‘not vaccinated’ protest in Tel Aviv, on February 15, 2021 (Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90)

Israel’s mass vaccination drive, which has already given both shots to over half the population, along with lockdown measures, brought down the number of new daily cases (based on a weekly average), from 8,600 at the peak of the health crisis to just 19 on Sunday. At the height of the pandemic, there were 88,000 active cases in the country and 1,228 serious cases; as of Tuesday, there were 340 active infections and 48 people in serious condition.

Since the start of the virus outbreak in the country in early 2020 there have been 839,475 cases detected in Israel and 6,412 people have died of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the last of a series of restrictions in place for over a year lapsed as case numbers continued to fall. The only major restrictions remaining are the mandate requiring masks to be worn indoors, expected to be lifted soon as well, and quarantine requirements for those entering the country.

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