On Monday, Yuli Edelstein, the Health Minister in Israel, ordered that supplies of the coronavirus vaccine be halted to Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, after it had inoculated thousands of teachers in the city. The teachers were vaccinated by the hospital at a vaccination center that had been established at Rabin Square, as part of an effort made with the Tel Aviv Municipality. A lot of teachers who were vaccinated were under the age of 60 and did not have any preexisting health conditions, both of which are required by the Health Ministry to make someone eligible for vaccination.
Edelstein’s office issued a statement in which they said that the director-general of the ministry had been ordered by the minister to halt the vaccine allotment to the hospital in question and to subsequently examine the vaccine allocations made to it. The statement said that the COVID-19 vaccines were a state resource and should be treated in the same manner. It called on all vaccine providers to follow the guidelines outlined by the Health Ministry. Ronni Gamzu, the Ichilov director, who until November had been the national coronavirus czar, pushed back on the decision of the Health Minister.
In a statement posted on the hospital’s Facebook page, Gamzu said that they had followed the prioritization guidelines set forth by the Health Ministry. These guidelines involve an inventory of chronic and over-55 patients who need to be inoculated and then second priority is given to police officers and teachers. He disclosed that all relevant patients had been vaccinated by the hospital and they had also sent appointments to everyone over 60 who hadn’t been inoculated as yet. In addition, he said that they had inoculated police officers and homeless people at the request of the Health Ministry.
He said that they had carried out a special operation for a couple of hours, thereby preventing a national resource from going to waste, as it was used for vaccinating approximately 3,000 teachers and preschool teachers. Also, they had vaccinated 2,000 people with chronic conditions and over the age of 50 and 60. Gamzu also questioned the Health Ministry’s stance to vaccine police officers, but punish the hospital for doing the same for teachers, who are in the same priority group. He said that within two weeks, Ichilov Hospital had proven its exceptional capabilities and become a vaccinating hospital for all of the country’s citizens.
The vaccination drive for teachers was also touted by the education department of Tel Aviv’s Municipality. Ichilov is the primary hospital for Tel Aviv and is also known as the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. The decision by Edelstein to cut off vaccine supplies to the hospital also came amidst concerns about a shortage of doses combined with a bid by the Health Ministry to close schools for curbing the increase in infections. In the current lockdown, the education system has remained a rather sticking point with some ministers not ready to close schools and there has been growing demand for prioritizing teachers and daycare staff in the vaccination drive.