Upcoming COVID Vaccine Debate for Children Will Lead to Increase in Death Threats

As Israel moves closer to making a final decision on whether to vaccinate children ages five to 11, violent and abusive threats against healthcare professionals are increasing more than ever.

“We have seen an increase in threats, and death threats specifically, mainly over the last few weeks when childhood vaccines were introduced and it appears that there will be a recommendation from the Ministry of Health to vaccinate children,” said Tomer Lotan, director. general. of the Ministry of Public Security.

The US Food and Drug Administration made the decision last month to give the green light to the Pfizer vaccine for inoculation of young children, a decision that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed last week. Children have already started receiving the vaccine in the United States and children’s vaccines, smaller vials with doses of 10 micrograms, have been ordered from Pfizer and are expected to be shipped to Israel next week.

The Health Ministry has yet to make a final decision on whether to air the final debate of its senior advisers on the issue of vaccinating children, which is scheduled for Wednesday night, mainly for fear of verbal and other reactions. type against committee members by the public.

On Sunday, Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash told 103FM radio station that committee members feel they will be freer to discuss the issue seriously if the meeting is closed.

Health worker prepares a Covid-19 vaccine at a Clalit temporary healthcare facility in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2021. (Credit: YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90)

“They are scared in light of the reactions in the previous discussion, there were very harsh reactions during the discussion,” he said.

Lotan said that while his ministry is not exposed to the details of Israeli police investigations, it was aware of “dozens of threats that come mainly from social media and directly to cell phones via WhatsApps and phone calls.” .

He said conspiracy theories and violent threats from anti-vaccines are accused around the world, but that the line being crossed in Israel is that they are being targeted directly at public servants, something the country has not seen. up to now.

“We have seen more and more circles involved in such conspiracies, but we have never seen beliefs so dramatically connected to a threat to public servants. This is the line that we definitely don’t want to cross and that is why we take it so seriously, ”Lotan said.

The Police are in charge of determining whether or not the threats are “above the criminal threshold”, which means that the people who are throwing the threats must be searched and prosecuted. Under Israeli law, most of the threats that health officials receive fall below this threshold and fall within the realm of freedom of expression.

However, he confirmed that the Police and his ministry are taking all measures to guarantee the safety of health professionals, including the Chief of Public Health Services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, who has been assigned a bodyguard. late last month after a series of threats escalated to the level of concern.

The police had already been patrolling her family’s home, and the Ministry of Health had set up a special hotline for health workers to report threats against them.

When asked if he feared for his life, Alroy-Preis told Ynet over the weekend that “there is fear” and that “the threats are definitely significant.” However, she said she would not allow fear to overwhelm her or prevent her from doing her job on behalf of the public.

“The question [of children’s vaccination] it is so sensitive in the Israeli speech today that we have to be very careful to make sure nothing happens, ”Lotan said. “We cannot say that the measures we are taking are excessive. We would rather take additional action than not do the right thing.

“It is up to the Police to decide what security element should be assigned to each of these people according to the threat,” explained Lotan. “We can’t say that this or that level provides you with a security guard and this and that just patrolling. It is up to the police to do a threat assessment and recommend what action should be taken. “

He said violence against health professionals comes in waves. He himself experienced threats when he served as head of the Israel Shield program during the previous administration, but said he never justified the security details.

Ash has also received threats against him, but he has no bodyguards.

“We need to strengthen Sharon personally and the really wonderful people at the Ministry of Health,” Lotan emphasized. “We have to support them.”


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