Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, Director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit at Sheba Medical Center, found herself the center of the Israel government’s ire during a meeting of a COVID advisory committee, reports Israel Hayom.
According to members at the meeting, senior officials at Israel’s Health Ministry erupted at Regev-Yochay, who said that she was “disappointed” by the results of a study she co-authored on the fourth vaccine.
Regev-Yochay gave her professional opinion that the fourth vaccine – the second booster – is not effective against the new “wave” of COVID-19 nor is it effective against severe illness, as the booster does not provide a high level of antibodies.
At this, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Price, Head of Public Health at the Ministry of Health, along with Director General of the Ministry of Health Prof. Nachman Ash, accused Regev-Yochay of sabotaging the government’s fourth vaccination campaign. The discussion became quite animated.
The Israel government is currently targeting the over-60 population to get the second booster.
Those present at the meeting also noted that the Health Ministry tried to use Regev-Yochay as a scapegoat for the public’s tepid response to the fourth shot.
“It is rare that there is such a conflict,” said one member. “They found [Regev] as a scapegoat for the fourth vaccine.”
“The fourth-dose vaccination campaign did not fail because of Prof. Regev's statement,” another member said. “…It should have been said that the vaccine is not effective against infection. People found that even if they did everything they were told and got vaccinated with the third and fourth vaccines, they were still infected.”
The member added that different opinions are not necessarily welcomed by the Health Ministry.
“There was no [overt] sense of censoring in the discussion, but certainly a feeling that there is one track and that it is difficult to say a different opinion in the presence of Sharon Alroy-Price and the director-general. If this is a committee that advises them, why are they part of the discussion?”
Sheba Medical Center’s website notes that according to Regev-Yochay, the country has achieved herd immunity.
“We have reached herd immunity in Israel without vaccinating children,” said Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, Director of the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit at Sheba Medical Center, who added: “The recommendation at the moment is to vaccinate the youth, but anyone can take it on a personal level and decide for themselves, there is no need to mandate their vaccination.”
The Health Ministry’s aversion to dissenting opinions may not help the trust issue it has with the public, according to Channel 12.
A new study among 1,002 Israelis finds that less than 17% of Israelis trusted the Health Ministry over other health experts earlier in the pandemic, and less than 50% considered the Health Ministry’s information to be “very” or “extremely” reliable.
The study also found that 65.8% want the Health Ministry to publish the data it gave to Pfizer, and 72.7% want the government to publish the side effects of the vaccine.