On Friday, Amit Marari, the Deputy Attorney-General, sent a letter to Amir Ohana, the Public Security Minister. In it, he specified that the Minister does not have the authority to decide whether to administer vaccinations to the convicts in prison or not. Marari stated that convicts serving sentences, as well as terrorists, should receive the coronavirus vaccine.
This letter to Ohana was sent just a week after reports surfaced that the Public Security Minister had instructed all relevant authorities to ensure that no prisoners are given the vaccine. He had strictly notified all personnel that without his approval and before the vaccination of all the staff of the Israel Prison Services (IPS) no criminal will be vaccinated.
In response to this letter from Marari, Ohana sent out a letter of his own. He addressed it to the Deputy Attorney-General, as well as Itamar Grotto, the Deputy Director-General of the Health Ministry, and stated that he has given his instructions and they will not change.
Ohana further wrote that he had instructed that the prison staff should first receive the vaccination, as they move in and out of the facilities quite frequently. He stated that this makes them a greater threat and thus, their vaccination takes priority over that of the inmates. Moreover, the Public Security Officer added that he had made this decision after coordinating with his colleague, the person in charge of Prof. Grotto, Yuli Edelstein, the Health Minister.
The letter directed written to Marari and Grotto said that they can choose to run in the next round of elections in Israel and if they win, do so as they like. But, until then, Ohana said that the Public Security Ministry falls under his jurisdiction and his responsibility. The Public Security Minister informed that he will take decisions that he thinks are appropriate and will not change his stance on this particular matter as well.
The Public Health Physicians Association, a part of the Israel Medical Association, released a statement on the matter on Friday. It criticized Ohana’s letter and called him out for trying to prevent inmates from getting vaccinated.
In the statement, the association said that health organizations all over the world, inclusive of Israel, have a responsibility to treat inmates as part of a captive population. Thus, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, it classified the prisoners as a part of the at-risk population in the country.
According to the Public Health Physicians Association, the crowding conditions in prison pose a risk of increased mortality and morbidity rates. Therefore, it stated that this part of the population also deserves medical treatment, which is their basic human right.
The statement further said that the State of Israel has a moral obligation towards the inmates and should immediately give them access to the coronavirus vaccinations. The association went on to state that the position of the Public Security Minister comes into conflict with medical guidelines and poses a threat to human life.