In a move that some may see as controversial, United Hatzalah founder and president Eli Beer instructed the chapter heads across Israel – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, secular and religious, to verify by March 7 that all the volunteers under their supervision have received the coronavirus vaccine or are recovering patients. Volunteers who decide not to receive the vaccine will be suspended from all duties, and after a grace period removed from the organization altogether.
“I don’t see this as controversial,” said Beer. “I see it as our duty in saving lives. As medical personnel and first responders, we are at risk, and we can endanger others if we aren’t vaccinated. We’ve had several volunteers in the past contract the virus because they responded to an emergency before the vaccines became available and despite the precautions they took. I don’t want any of our volunteers getting sick, or their families getting sick. God forbid, I don’t want any of our volunteers infecting a patient either,” Beer explained.
To date, nearly 90% of the 6,000 plus United Hatzalah volunteers have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. According to the new policy, those who have a legitimate medical reason not to receive the vaccine, such as pregnant women in their first trimester, will need to submit a request for a temporary exemption to the organization’s medical department, and will only be allowed to respond to some of the medical emergencies, where the risk of contracting the coronavirus is low.
In addition to making sure that all of its volunteers have been vaccinated, United Hatzalah, in partnership with the Claims Conference, has taken upon itself the task of making sure that all homebound Holocaust survivors in Israel are vaccinated.
“Volunteers who did not get the vaccine will not be allowed to respond to respiratory emergencies, emergencies where someone in the home is in isolation or tested positive for Corona, as well as patients with a fever. I have already received both vaccines even though I already caught the virus,” Beer noted, adding: “I’ve personally experienced what this virus can do to a person and how terrible it is. The damage that can be caused by an unvaccinated person passing on the virus is unfathomable, and I don’t want our volunteers to be responsible for that.”