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Israel approves bill allowing names of unvaccinated to be shared with authorities

Legislation allows government to share identities of people not vaccinated against Covid-19 with other authorities, raising privacy concerns for those opting out of inoculation
A plenary session at the Israeli parliament in 2019 (AFP)

Israel's parliament approved a law on Wednesday that will allow the personal information of individuals who choose not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to be shared with local and national authorities for the next three months, raising privacy concerns for those opting out of inoculation.

Under the terms of the bill, the health ministry will be permitted to provide local authorities and the education ministry with the name, national identification number, phone number and address of any citizen who is entitled to be vaccinated for the purpose of promoting inoculation.

Israeli lawmakers voted on the bill three times and it was finally approved by the Knesset on Wednesday, with 30 lawmakers voting in favour, and 13 against it. 

The Israeli Association of Public Health Physicians had urged lawmakers to vote against the bill, Haaretz reported.

The association said such legislation would damage public trust in local council and governmental authorities, and described it as "an unprofessional action [that] could possibly cause serious harm".

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Israeli doctors and physicians were also concerned the bill would undermine trust in them and violate patients' medical privacy and confidentiality.

Tamar Zandberg, a Knesset member of the Meretz party, criticised the bill, saying that it violated  "citizens privacy", the Times of Israel reported.

"Handing over such data is a slippery slope,” she added, noting that it could fall into the wrong hands," Zandberg said.

Merav Michaeli, the head of the Labor party who voted against the bill, lambasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for failing to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

"You try to hide everything with public relations and obfuscation," she said, referring to Netanyahu. "This information belongs to citizens, and today you are taking their right to privacy about their medical information."

However, Haim Katz, the head of Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, which deliberated the bill for voting, dismissed the criticism, saying, "Is the value of privacy more important than the value of life?"

Katz reassured the bill's opponents that the data would be destroyed two months after being handed over to local authorities.

Israel has the world's highest number of vaccines administered per capita, with nearly half of its population immunised against Covid-19. But its rollout has been criticised by its government's refusal to inoculate the Palestinians.