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Soldier’s parents, Emergency Council slam COVID vaccine pressure

The Public Emergency Council for the Coronavirus Crisis, comprised of senior Israeli doctors and researchers today directed a letter to IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi regarding what they call indirect pressure and coercion to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the IDF.

This, after a group of 160 parents of IDF soldiers last week engaged an attorney to protect the rights of their children in the army who they say face threats, sanctions, shaming, and cancelled leave for declining to submit to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Group organizer Arnon Grossman spoke to Arutz Sheva about why they are engaging legal representation for soldiers.

The issue came to the attention of Galei Tzahal radio, who last week aired an IDF Spokesman statement that there is no policy to pressure soldiers into receiving the vaccine.

However, members of the Parents of IDF soldiers group maintain their claim that the IDF Spokesman’s denial has no relation to the situation on the ground, and that soldiers who do not want to be vaccinated continue to face shaming, personal talks with commanders, cancelled leave, and isolation.

The Public Emergency Council wrote to the Chief of Staff: “We appeal and request your urgent intervention regarding recurring reports in media and social media, as well as inquiries from parents that include official publications by various units, which explicitly show that in the military there exists a system of pressure (whether by imposing sanctions, providing benefits, or social pressure) on soldiers who are reluctant to be vaccinated. This, in stark contrast to repeated statements by senior military officials and the announcement by the IDF Spokesman.”

The Council is comprised of senior doctors in Israel who “can no longer stand on the sidelines in light of what is happening in Israel.” The Council is an ad hoc volunteer group, not funded and not politically identified with any party.

“As you can also see in the attached document (Maglan, Paratroopers Brigade), while officially the military has chosen an approach of encouragement to vaccinate, as it trickles down to the field units, this translates into a very serious violation of the principles of medical ethics of autonomy and confidentiality. With respect to these documents, there is no justification that a soldier who refuses to be vaccinated must talk to his commander, who is not a professional authority or to provide an answer that respects the principles of ‘informed consent’. This is a situation designed to cause the soldier to feel obligated and create a situation that simulates an order, and even creates a blatant violation of medical confidentiality. It might have been possible to understand a request that a soldier who refuses to be vaccinated talk to a medic or a doctor, but certainly not a commander. With regard to the guidelines in AH 35, the issue of the ‘green passport’ has been firmly rejected in the world as ineffective and morally, ethically, and socially defective. The document clearly shows an active ‘green passport’ program, which constitutes invalid pressure that is in serious violation of the Patient Rights Law and Basic Rights.

“Needless to say, COVID-19 poses a very low risk to soldiers. Of the many thousands of soldiers who tested positive, there was a meager number who needed medical attention, and no one has died. The primary importance of the vaccine is in protecting at-risk populations, and in preventing severe morbidity among them. The risk of a soldier dying from COVID-19 (including in this age group), is lower than the risk of being killed in a training accident or road accident on weekend leave. In addition, it is important to emphasize that it is not at all clear to what extent the vaccine reduces infection and contagion. So that, also from the military’s point of view, the health rationale behind such heavy pressure is unclear.

“Patient’s choice is an ethical axiom. Even when it is clear that life-saving treatment is required, the law gives the patient the clear freedom to choose not to receive essential treatment, such as chemotherapy. Among the signatories to this letter are the former Chief Medical Officer as well as the drafter of the army’s code of ethics, and we – who welcome the vaccine and support its distribution – clearly say that it is all the more important to keep these things in a hierarchical system such as the army where it is easy to ‘slide’ from recommendation to pressure and issuing commands.

“In light of the evidence that commanders in the field are acting according to their beliefs and worldview, we ask that you consider communicating to all soldiers, commanders, and units the message that it is forbidden to oblige, instruct, command, incentivize, or create negative reinforcements to encourage a soldier to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. Beyond that, to remind the commanders and clinics that medical confidentiality must be maintained regarding the decision to get vaccinated. Every male and female soldier should know that they have the direct backing of the Chief of Staff to choose their medical choices in general, and regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in particular.”

Council Members include:

  • Former IDF Chief Medical Officer and Medical Association Ethics Committee Chairman Brigadier General (Res.) Prof. Eran Dolev.
  • Former Health Ministry Director and Sheba Medical Center Director Prof. Mordechai (Motke) Shani.
    AIDS medicine in Israel pioneer and Tropical Diseases and AIDS Center at Ben-Gurion University head Prof. Zvi Bentoitch.
  • Former School of Medicine Dean and Ben Gurion University President Prof. Rivka Carmi.
  • Israel Prize laureate post-trauma expert Prof. Zehava Solomon.
  • Former Health Ministry Geriatrics Division Institutional Services head, Dignity and Patients’ Rights
  • Committee Chairman, and National Council for Geriatrics member Prof. Yaakov Gindin.
  • Infectious diseases in children specialist and Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv Microbiological Laboratory Director Prof. Amos Adler.
  • Hebrew University Family Medicine Department and School of Medicine Head Prof. Amnon Lahad.
  • Tel Hashomer Hospital oncogenetic unit and clinic for high-risk women founder and former Health Ministry Supreme Helsinki Committee Chairman Prof. Eitan Friedman.
  • Professor of Social Work, former President of the Achva Academic College, and Ben Gurion University School of Social Work head Prof. Elian Alkrinawi.
  • Former English Hospital in Nazareth Director and Society for the Promotion of the Health of the Arab Population in Israel Chairman Prof. Elian Alkrinawi.
  • Former Meir Hospital Director and United Health Insurance Fund CEO Prof. Asher Elhiani.

Source: Arutz Sheva