In a move that some may see as controversial, United Hatzalah Founder and President Eli Beer has instructed the chapter heads of all regions in Israel, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, both secular and religious, to make sure that all of the volunteers under their jurisdiction have received the Coronavirus vaccine, or are recovering patients, by March 7th. Should a volunteer decide not to receive the vaccine, they 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 a number of volunteers in the past contract the virus because they responded to an emergency prior to the vaccines being available and in spite of the precautions they took. I don’t want any of our volunteers getting sick, or their families getting sick. G-d forbid I don’t want any of our volunteers passing the virus on to a patient either,” Beer explained.
To date, nearly 90 percent of the 6,000 plus volunteers who make up the organization have already received at least the first vaccine. According to the new policy, those who have a legitimate medical reason why they will not be receiving the vaccine, such as pregnant women in their first trimester, will need to submit a request to the organization’s medical department requesting a special exemption for the time being. Upon receiving the temporary exemption, they will then 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 throughout the country have the ability and opportunity to be vaccinated as well.
“Volunteers who do not have the vaccine, will not be allowed to respond to any respiratory emergencies, any emergency where someone in the home is in isolation or sick with the disease, or any emergency involving a fever, as well as others. I myself have already received both vaccines even though I already had the virus. I’ve personally experienced what this virus can do to someone 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,” Beer concluded.