Ministry health

Defying Ministry of Education, health chief urges COVID vaccination in schools

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz on Thursday reiterated his support for vaccinating children against COVID-19 in schools, stressing that they are the best place to reach young people who are not vaccinated.

The comments marked an apparent challenge to the authority of Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, who opposes shooting during the school day.

“We have to do everything we can to reach everyone who is not yet vaccinated,” Horowitz told Channel 12.

After Israel appeared to put the coronavirus pandemic behind it in June, the past two months have seen a rapid acceleration in the spread of morbidity, fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant. The government has made vaccination its main weapon in fending off the resurgent virus, with vaccines now available to anyone over 12 years of age.

“Vaccinations should be done in schools because that’s where young people come from,” said Horowtiz, making schools effective places to reach unvaccinated children and, with their parents’ permission, vaccinate them. .

Acknowledging that Shasha-Biton is opposed to the idea, Horowitz said that “the decision regarding vaccinations and all health matters is the decision of the Minister of Health, and it is my authority under the law.”

In an apparent challenge to Shasha-Biton on who has the final say on immunization of children in schools, Horowitz added that “the authority over health, including inside schools, is that of the ministry of Health is the law ”.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton attends the New Hope faction meeting in the Knesset on August 2, 2021 (Yonatan Sindel / Flash90)

With a few weeks to go before the start of the school year, the government has approved a plan for how schools will operate during the pandemic that will be based on extensive virus tests on students, in order to quickly identify those who are. infected, quarantine and prevent them. to pass the virus on to others.

However, September will also see the summer holidays, when schools will be closed. With just nine scheduled study days spread throughout the month, some have suggested postponing the school year until October, which would also give more time to quell the wave of infections.

Nonetheless, Horowitz stressed the need to open the school year in September.

“It is important for children and families to start the school year on time,” he said, noting that was the purpose of developing the plan with all its reliance on health testing. virus.

Channel 12 reported that at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening, when the government approved tighter restrictions on gatherings as a way to curb the spread of the virus, ministers rallied in support of school vaccinations. while attacking Shasha-Biton for his objections to the scheme.

During the cabinet meeting, Transport Minister Merav Michaeli noted that other vaccines, such as tetanus or papillomavirus, are also issued in schools.

“I don’t understand the educational claims,” ​​Horowitz said, according to the report, which did not cite its sources.

Shasha-Biton replied that she had no objection to vaccinating children in schools, but not during study hours.

” So, what is it for ? Horowitz retorted. “When are they over there?” While studying. What is the point of vaccinating afterwards?

Israeli students attend school in Tel Aviv on April 18, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni / Flash90)

Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen then suggested giving vaccines at the end of the day when parents come to pick up their children, but Shasha-Biton objected that this could lead to tension, due to the discrepancies. opinion on COVID-19 and vaccines.

“A school needs to be a protected, sensitive and educational space, and I don’t want to bring all the talk around the coronavirus into the school,” Shasha-Biton said. “Let [the children] have a little calm.

The Department of Education’s determination to keep COVID-19 vaccines out of schools has reportedly extended to a government plan to perform serological tests on more than 1.5 million students, to determine how many have antibodies viral, allowing these students to obtain quarantine exemptions and remain in the classroom, even after exposure to a known carrier.

The ministry is taking steps to make it more difficult for schools in the ultra-Orthodox town of Bnei Brak to conduct serological tests, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday.

There were 50,000 tests prepared for students and written permission from parents received by the city. The ultra-Orthodox school system already opened its doors earlier this week.

However, the ministry reportedly told the municipality that serological tests would not be allowed during school hours and could only be done in the presence of a parent, significantly reducing the chances of them being done.

Shasha-Biton sparked controversy by calling the idea of ​​vaccinating students in schools a “crime”.

Last month, she was reprimanded by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for arguing with health officials, and as chair of the Knesset coronavirus committee under the last government, she rolled back several restrictions on viruses adopted by the cabinet.

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