Israel's unvaccinated fear exclusion

Israel has led the world in COVID-19 vaccination with health ministry figures on Friday (February 25) showing 50% of the population has received at least one shot.

But now the country is facing another challenge that other countries will have to grapple with - how to balance public health and the rights of the unvaccinated.

Despite the strong government numbers, some officials privately estimate that 10% of Israelis over 16 - that's around 650,000 - do not intend to get vaccinated.

Some employers already plan to ban unvaccinated workers from the office, which rights groups fear could cost them their jobs, especially for those where remote working is not possible.

And asking employees to share their vaccine status could violate medical privacy rights.

Some employers and advocates are concerned parliament hasn't passed any laws on returning to offices or offering protections for the unvaccinated.

The health ministry did not comment when asked if legislation was being drawn up.

Early discussions on guidelines and legislation point to employers, authorities and courts putting public health concerns before individuals' demand.

This is Sharon Abraham-Weiss, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, or ACRI.

"The question is how do we reopen the market, the economy, and life, without harming people that cannot or would not get vaccinated."

Israel's largest labor union suggested that unvaccinated workers who can't work at home show negative tests to their employers every 72 hours as a potential workaround.

The "Green Pass system" was launched in the country last Sunday (February 21).

A government-validated certificate is granted for those who have had both doses of the vaccine or have recovered from COVID-19.

In one of its first applications, only those who carry this pass were allowed to attend a small open-air concert in Tel Aviv this week.