Is a law which stipulates that immunizations are a prerequisite for receiving child benefit payments acceptable in a democratic society? This question has been the subject of an argument about Israeli immunization policy in recent years.
The main opposition to the law comes from Adalah – the Arab-Israeli human rights organization – which appealed to the High Court of Justice against the law. According to Adalah, the law discriminates against the Bedouin and other Arab communities who do not vaccinate themselves due to lack of access to medical services. Moreover, there are those who claim that the law limits parents’ autonomy to decide what is best for their children and to object to vaccinations on religious or ideological grounds.
The study investigated these claims in depth and examined whether the Israeli policy is consistent with the principles of a democratic society. The study presents, among others, a historical survey of the development of immunizations and related laws, the different motives for objecting to immunizations, and a comparison between the Israeli immunization policy and that of 23 countries included in the OECD. Among the countries surveyed are the US, Australia, Germany, Turkey, Sweden, and many others.
As the study reveals, all the world’s important medical bodies determine that effort must be made to increase the rates of immunization. The related policy and manners of implementation should be decided in each country based on its relevant individual factors and data.
As can be seen from the comparison, the law in Israel not only meets, but even exceeds, the democratic principles. The Israeli policy is lenient compared to that practiced in most of the OECD member countries and seems to be a response to the threat posed in Israel against “herd immunity” (vaccinating a large percentage of a population in order to eradicate diseases and to protect vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and babies). Moreover, the study also reveals that accessibility to medical services in Israel is very high, and that most of the people who are not vaccinated chose to do so for other reasons.
The objection to the Israeli policy raised by Adalah and others, based on claims of discrimination or a threat to democracy, are unfounded. An analysis of the facts undermines the organization’s claims that their appeal was submitted on humanitarian grounds rather than due to anti-Israel motives. It would seem that the organization, which defines itself as an “independent human rights organization”, is in fact opposing an Israeli policy which conforms to that of democracies worldwide and to accepted medical guidelines. Adalah’s motivation is not the concern for the rights of the Arab minority but rather its desire to slander Israel. In doing so, it is not only harming the welfare of those very citizens in whose name it is appealing but, in this case, even putting them at great risk.