Israel’s parliament passed a law Wednesday allowing the government to share the identities of people not vaccinated against the coronavirus with other authorities, raising privacy concerns for those opting out of inoculation.
The measure, which passed with 30 votes for and 13 against, gives local governments, the director general of the education ministry and some in the welfare ministry the right to receive the names, addresses and phone numbers of unvaccinated citizens.
The objective of the measure — valid for three months or until the Covid-19 pandemic is declared over — is “to enable these bodies to encourage people to vaccinate by personally addressing them”, a parliament statement said.
Israel, a country of nine million people, has administered the two recommended jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus to roughly a third of its population.
As it emerges from lockdown, the country is restricting certain services, including access to gyms and indoor dining, to the vaccinated only, giving a so-called green pass to the fully inoculated.
That too has raised concerns about unequal access for those exercising their right to not be vaccinated.
During debate on the measure, Labor party leader Merav Michaeli accused right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “denying citizens their right to the privacy of their medical information”.
The statement from the parliament, or Knesset, said the personal information cannot be used for any purpose other than encouraging people to be vaccinated.
“The information will be deleted after its use within 60 days,” according to the law, and “a person who was contacted can demand that his details be deleted and that they not be contacted again.”
Haim Katz of Netanyahu’s Likud party defended the law as a means to promote vaccination.
“I’ve been asked what about people’s privacy: Is privacy more important than life itself?” Katz said in parliament, stressing the information would include nothing beyond the question of whether or not the person was vaccinated.
At a news conference, Netanyahu later called on Israeli citizens to be vaccinated in order to “return to normal life”.
The prime minister deplored misleading news about the vaccine, and said Israel aimed to fully inoculate 6.2 million people before the beginning of April.
“More than a million adults are not yet vaccinated,” he said, adding that “in the world, people are waiting for vaccines, (but) here vaccines are waiting for people”.
Israel has officially recorded more than 760,000 coronavirus cases and over 5,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic.