ACRI’s Position on COVID-19 Vaccinations, the Green Passport, and Sanctions
COVID-19 has caused a tremendous loss of life worldwide and changed the world in ways yet to be seen. Locally, the resulting health- and movement-related restrictions touched all populations in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). These restrictions, which began in earnest with the closure of the Israeli school system, economy, and most crossings between Israel and the OPT, took effect on 13th March 2020 and are ongoing. ACRI does not take for granted the difficulty posed to Israeli elected leadership by the emergency situation and the need to protect the public interest, and is following the government’s responses to the health, economic, and political crises to safeguard human rights and the most vulnerable.
Every person has the right to decide what to do with one’s own body. With that, the government has the mandate to protect the public interest, and in the context of Israel during the COVID-19 pandemic, the issues at hand are both the public health and the declining state of the economy, due to multiple lockdowns and related restrictions during the past year. We support positive incentives (carrots) in the attempt to reach herd immunity. Should those incentives infringe on the civil and human rights of civilians – mainly the rights to equality, privacy, freedom, and employment – those infringements must reflect the proportionality doctrine, and must be implemented through the democratic legislative process.
Israel has been in and out of lockdowns since March 2020, when the caretaker government started passing emergency regulations without Parliamentary oversight. One of these emergency regulations includes the Security Services (Shin Bet) tracking civilians in order to curb the virus, which the High Court significantly curtailed year later following our petition on the issue.
Israel is leading the way as the fastest vaccinating country per capita in the world. Since the vaccine became available in Israel, the Ministry of Health has been running an extremely organized and successful campaign, resulting in approximately 80% of the population eligible (people 16 years+) for the vaccination, which makes up about half of the entire population, having received at least the first dose as of March 2021.
The green passport system rolled out with the partial reopening of the market after Israel’s third official lockdown in early February 2021. Those who present either an official certificate of vaccination or of having recovered from the virus are allowed to enter certain entertainment halls and gyms; other places like road shops, schools, and essential service sites are regulated by capping the number of people permissible; other places have not opened at all, such as restaurants with seating. The situation is fluid, and regulations change on a frequent basis.
Israel is not, and should not, enforce vaccinations (sticks)
We see the sense in carrying out with the green passport system as long as there is a relatively high infections rate
When the infection rate drops significantly, the green pass system should be reassessed – proportionality is key
Considering the context in Israel in which the economic collapse that has lead to over 1 million unemployed people is statistically harming more individuals than the virus itself, a partial reopening of the market to a) vaccinees only or b) a capped number of people, is reasonable while the infection rate is still high.
We are following the situation closely, with an eye to the populations who cannot get vaccinated – those 16 years old and under, people with allergies or certain health conditions – as well as populations which, for institutional lack of trust in the government or lack of access to information and resources, are generally less likely to get the vaccination, mainly the Ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities.
On 11.2.2021, ACRI and the Worker’s Hotline for Refugees and Migrants appealed to the Attorney General requesting that he publish a statement on the illegality of employers obligating their employees to share their vaccination status with them or requiring that they get the vaccination as a condition of their continued employment.
We noted that the growing number of such cases obliges the State to publish a clear legal opinion clarifying that no employer can demand such information from his or her employees, or condition employment as he or she sees fit.
We further noted that insofar as there is an intention to alter this legal situation in light of the pandemic, such a policy must be put forth through democratic means in the Parliament and following a public discussion on the matter.
The Deputy Attorney General responded to our appeal on 18.2.2021 stating that the formulation of such a legislative arrangement is underway.
ACRI is monitoring the situation and will weigh the option of further legal action should the need arise.
Law authorizing the transfer of information regarding civilians whom have not been vaccinated to local municipalities and Ministry of Education:
In late February, the Parliament passed legislation permitting municipalities to acquire names, ID numbers, addresses and telephone numbers of local residents who have not yet been inoculated against coronavirus or missed the second dose in order to encourage them to receive it.
ACRI, along with Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, petitioned to the High Court of Justice against the law on March 1, 2021.
The law is dangerous and constitutes a violation of citizens' privacy and a precedent of violating the medical confidentiality between the patient and the HMO.
We fear the likely misuse of information by local authorities. Encouraging immunization is an important goal and the effort must be continued, but not via the extreme step of passing on lists of those who have not been vaccinated to local authorities and the Ministry of Education.
The violation of privacy and medical confidentiality is grave, and the precedent of transferring medical information without consent to other authorities is a dangerous one.
A special and weighty justification is required for this purpose, and ACRI is of the opinion that there is no clear justification as of now. Furthermore, the transfer of information from the treating entity to other entities such as local authorities and the Ministry of Education creates a danger that the information will leak or be misused for other purposes.
Encouraging vaccination is a worthy purpose, but there are other ways to achieve it, for example through the HMO’s themselves, which have information about those who have been vaccinated and those who have not readily available.
In addition, the Ministry of Health is conducting an extensive and successful campaign to encourage vaccination by various media platforms, and by other means of exerting social pressure to get vaccinated.
Local authorities can also encourage vaccination in general and provide positive incentives, even without receiving confidential medical information about the vaccination status of civilians.
On March 9, 2021, the High Court of Justice put out an interim order and conditional order in support of ACRI's petition--the State must explain why the law should not be repealed and, in the meantime, the Ministry of Health is prohibited from transferring information on unvaccinated civilians to local municipalities and the Ministries of Education and Welfare.