COVID-19 shot
COVID-19 shotiStock

Most members of Israel's "expert committee" that votes on the administration of the COVID shots are not doctors, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday.

Channel 12 cited a list sent by the health ministry of the 90 members of the Staff for the Treatment of Infectious Diseases, which recently recommended to begin administering a fourth dose of the COVID shot in Israel.

Investigation into the names on the list found that only 42 of them, less than half, are doctors.

The remaining 48 included 16 people apparently lacking clinical experience relevant for making decisions on the shots: 8 senior clerks in the health system, 4 veterinarians, 3 spokespeople, and a communications researcher. In addition, it included 3 nurses, a pharmacist, a lab manager and a statistician.

The identities of the remaining 26 members of the committee, almost a third, remained undisclosed, due to their positions as representatives of the IDF, National Security Staff, and Israel Institute for Biological Research.

The health ministry told Channel 12 in response: "Managing a global epidemic is a complex event, and the committee is a professional body in which the involvement of multiple bodies of knowledge such as statisticians, mathematicians, epidemiologists and veterinarians, pediatricians and public health nurses is of great importance. The power of the decision-making comes from the very mixing of the various professional bodies, which inform and check each other, and thus make better decisions. The positions of the committee are reasoned and documented recommendations. Each position has a possible critique due to the high level of uncertainty that accompanies the event."

Some senior Israeli doctors, however, slammed the revelations. Prof. Dror Mevorach, director of the corona department at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, told Channel 12 in a report on Thursday, "I think it leaves a bad taste when a security officer and spokespeople are voting on the Staff for the Treatment of Infectious Diseases. It would be better to have a small, professional and transparent committee. Those people that aren't doctors may be wonderful people, but how are they connected to this issue? I also do not understand how they were chosen."

"The committee that votes for the approval of vaccines in Israel should be a small, professional committee with 20 people, with possibly two representatives of the public among them," Prof. Mevorach continued. "It cannot be that there is an absolute majority of people who have no professional training who will not always know how to analyze the information presented to them."

Dr. Avi Mizrahi, director of the Internal Medicine Department B at Assaf Harofeh which was previously the corona department, said, "Vaccine decisions should be given the highest scientific attention. Now that it's being revealed that more than half of the staff's decision-makers do not belong in the field at all - it is worrying."

"Of all the decisions we could make about the vaccine, the decision on a fourth vaccine is the most challenging, as there is not even the slightest bit of research from which to assess what this move means," Dr. Mizrahi added. "So far, the decision on a fourth vaccine is not based on any coherent medical information, and therefore it is not surprising that the committee members who supported it are not professionals."

One of the founders of the Staff for the Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Dr. Yoav Yehezkeli, an expert in internal medicine and medical management, said, "The team we founded in 1989 included 15 experts in various fields who were defined as important in epidemic management. People of stature who were chosen meticulously. The small team was effective. Its composition did not change - until it moved to the Ministry of Health in the mid-2000s."

"Since then, I understand, the team has swelled a lot and non-professional representatives and people from different bodies have been added. They are not supposed to be members of such a team - but are to serve as observers, or when they are invited as needed to present a position. They are not supposed to participate in deciding what the summary recommendation will be. A staff of experts is exactly that - it must be limited and defined in order to express expertise and be effective," Dr. Yehezkeli explained.