Photo Credit: Eitan Elhadez / TPS

Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill Sunday to impose sanctions against parents of unvaccinated children.

The move follows a major measles outbreak across Israel in which more than 1,800 patients were diagnosed with the disease, and an 18-month-old baby died.

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Sanctions mandated by the bill will include a NIS 2,000 fine and will allow the Ministry of Health to remove non-vaccinated children from educational institutions when there are concerns over an outbreak.

The “Immunization Law” proposed by MK Yoel Hasson (Labor) and Shuli Mualem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi/Jewish Home), with the backing of The Israeli Medical Association and the Association of Pediatricians will require the Ministry of Health to monitor children who have not been vaccinated, to send a warning in writing to their parents, and if the warning does not correct the situation, requires the ministry to invite the parents to a special information meeting.

A parent who ignores this summons will receive an economic sanction in the form of having an income tax credit point revoked, up to the sum of NIS 2,000.

In addition, the proposal allows the Ministry of Health to remove non-vaccinated children from educational institutions when there is a fear of an outbreak.

“We welcome the decision of the ministerial committee to heal this sick system,” Hasson said in a statement, “and now it will be possible to implement a national vaccination policy that defines principles and goals, which systematically addresses the refusal of vaccinations, and which balances the preservation of public health with freedom.

“In the long term this will preserve the health of our children,” he added.

Mualem-Rafaeli said, “The decision of the ministerial committee to approve the law is a correct and appropriate step in view of the spread of the measles epidemic.”

The bill would allow “an educational institution to prevent entry into its institution any child, teacher or other individual who is not immune to the disease, in case of an outbreak of a disease against which a routine vaccination is given,” explained Health Committee member Kulanu MK Merav Ben-Ari.

“In the event that there is a medical impediment to receipt of a vaccination,” she continued, “the institution may accept the child with the presentation of a certificate from an expert physician regarding the vaccination that the child did not receive, unless the Director of the Ministry is instructed to act otherwise.”

The death of an 18-month-old infant in Jerusalem earlier this month was the first recorded death from measles in Israel in 15 years. The epicenter of the epidemic is in the ultra-Orthodox community, where opposition to vaccination on religious grounds is common.

Many ultra-orthodox rabbis have issued edicts supporting vaccination. Campaigns have been launched in haredi neighborhoods with posters in Hebrew and Yiddish, calling on parents to vaccinate their children.

Ilanit Chernick and TPS contributed to this report.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.