Despite Health Ministry’s directive to be vaccinated, Israeli Public Security Minister Amir Ohana ordered that Palestinian security prisoners would not be inoculated, Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed on Sunday.
The office of the Israeli minister stated that only prison staff should be vaccinated because “there should be no inoculating security prisoners without approval and in line with vaccination progress among the general population.”
Likud minister Ohana's statement did not single out Palestinian inmates. However, there are no non-Palestinian security prisoners in Israel.
Israeli ministry's directive contradicts the Health Ministry’s guidelines regarding the prioritisation of vaccination, Haaretz said.
The head of the ministry’s epidemiology department, Dr Emilia Anis, stated that prisoners fall into the second priority group alongside chronically ill patients; nursery and school teacher; and first responders, including police officers and emergency response personnel — all having a high exposure risk.
Several officials familiar with the situation say that the prisons service is totally unprepared for vaccinating prisoners and that it started surveying prisoners a few days ago to gauge interest in getting vaccinated.
In response to the Public Security Ministry's directive, Shas lawmaker Moshe Arbel said: “The state should weigh in on the difficult situation of the prisoners, among the most crowded and vulnerable groups in the country and act to vaccinate them as soon as possible.”
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel ripped into Ohana’s announcement: “Minister Ohana’s politically motivated directive indicates once again why the responsibility for prisoner health should be moved from the Public Security Ministry and the Israel Prisons Service to a body whose first priority is health.”
The rights group added: “We should be making sure that prisoners are given high priority for vaccinations in line with recommendations by health experts involved in the matter, especially in light of worldwide data showing that the risk of infection among inmates is higher than that of the outside population."