Incentivizing COVID-19 Vaccinations and Restrictions on the Unvaccinated
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel supports encouraging immunization against the COVID-19 virus, but calls for incentives that do not unduly infringe on the constitutional right to privacy, the right to freedom, the right to equality and other such basic human rights. As such, there is no place for private initiatives to impose restrictions on those who have not been vaccinated, neither on behalf of local authorities, employers or business owners. Should the government wish to impose restrictions, it must do so in explicit legislation, in keeping with the principle of proportionality, and only following public debate.
As various initiatives and restrictions arise to limit the freedom of unvaccinated persons, ACRI is working on a case-by-case basis to resolve related civil rights issues.
24.2.2021: The Knesset approved the second and third readings of the law for the transfer of information on those who have not been vaccinated from the Ministry of Health to the local authorities and the Ministry of Education.
3.1.2021: ACRI, along with Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, petitioned to the High Court of Justice against the law on March 1, 2021.
3.2.2021: ACRI argued in the High Court of Justice against the law authorizing the transfer of information on unvaccinated civilians from the Ministry of Health to local municipalities and the Ministries of Education and Welfare. The Court put out an interim order and conditional order, putting the onus on the State to explain why the law should not be repealed, and meanwhile the Ministry of Health cannot transfer the information until the final High Court verdict is made. The next hearing will be before an extended panel of 7 justices.
ACRI Atty Gil Gan-Mor: "Even during the hearing and despite repeated questions from the court, representatives of the government and the Knesset could not point to a significant benefit from the transfer of sensitive medical information to government ministries and local authorities. This is another serious violation of the constitutional right to privacy, which, as Chief Justice Hayut noted in the debate, has been significantly eroded in the past year."
ACRI’s Statement on the issue:
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 precedent. 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 health funds 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.