Litzman considers vaccinations as requirement for public schools

The Health Ministry is considering setting vaccination as a requirement for entry into public schools, the ministry confirmed on Thursday.

Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ) wrote a letter in a mid-August to Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov, according to Ynet, in which he suggested vaccinations as a prerequisite for entry into schools.

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The Health Ministry urged parents to vaccinate their children ahead of the upcoming school year, scheduled to begin September 2. The ministry said 262 people were diagnosed of measles, as of August 26th, compared to just nine in all of 2016 and 33 in 2017. The ministry cited a trio of reasons for the high number: the increasing number of people in the United States and Europe who choose not to vaccinate their children, unvaccinated tourists vising the country and residents who elected not to vaccinate.

“We reiterate the need to maintain regular immunizations, especially before the start of the school year,” said the ministry in a statement on its website.

Ninety percent of the cases reported this year resulted from people who had not been vaccinated or came into with unvaccinated persons, the ministry said.

“As is known, vaccines are a cornerstone of the prevention of dangerous infectious diseases, and in public health they make a decisive contribution to the health of children and the population in general,” Litzman wrote. “Children who are not vaccinated not only endanger themselves but those around them as well, because they break herd immunity. This risk rises when a child is in an educational setting with other children because of the relative density, the closed spaces and the nature of children.”

Litzman further pointed out immunization rates are generally high in Israel but there has been a recent downward trend, adding the immunization effectiveness is directly proportional to the percentage of population that is vaccinated.

“In some countries, there is a policy that a child who is not properly vaccinated will not be permitted to enter educational frameworks unless he has a documented medical exemption,” he noted.

Litzman wrote in his letter children in Israel who were not vaccinated would likewise need a doctor’s note providing reason.

Measles is one of the most serious infectious diseases. Symptoms of measles typically appear seven to 14 days after a person is infected and can include a high fever, coughing, a runny nose, red or watery eyes and sometimes Koplik spots – tiny white spots – in the mouth which can appear two or three days after the onset of symptoms if it appears at all, the Health Ministry wrote in an email in August.

A similar bill recently proposed in Knesset .

Naomi Grant contributed to this report.

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