Silence as Gazans Refuse to Get Vaccinated Against Covid-19

Remember how the haters, mainstream media, “human rights organizations” and pretty much the entire world bashed Israel for not sending COVID-19 vaccines to Gaza, despite the obligation for procuring them resting with the PA? Then when we did agree to send over a million doses, the PA refused under the pretext they were too close to their expiry date?

These same people are absolutely silent now that we see Gazans have themselves to blame, as they refuse to take the available vaccines:

More than five months since the arrival of the first batch of COVID-19 jabs in the Gaza Strip, the vaccine rollout in the besieged coastal enclave has been met with general distrust and, in many cases, outright refusal.

According to data from Gaza’s health ministry, some 98,000 people – or just less than five percent of the two million population – have so far received a shot.

To date, authorities in the Strip have confirmed more than 115,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,089 deaths. There are currently 43 patients treated in hospital, 34 of whom are in intensive care units (ICU).

Hind al-Maqoosi, 69, is among the hospitalised. Her daughter, Sana, said the entire family is afraid to take the vaccine.

“We think it does more harm than good,” Sana said, speaking from her mother’s bedside at the Palestine-Turkey Friendship hospital in Gaza City.

“I was infected with COVID-19 but refused to get vaccinated after,” Sana added. “The health ministry says it is beneficial but other people say it is not. Getting the coronavirus disease is inevitable.”

While health authorities have repeatedly stressed the importance of undertaking the necessary precautions, physical distancing is difficult in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

The reluctance of people to get vaccinated, however, has raised concerns and prompted the ICRC – alongside the health ministry and the ministry of endowment and religious affairs – to launch a campaign aimed at increasing awareness about the positive effects of the shots.

“The campaign, which comprises radio spots, billboards, videos, media and social media products, will use trustworthy medical information, health advice, the hadith and verses of the Quran to encourage and reassure people in Gaza that vaccines are safe to take and help to combat the spread of COVID-19,” Zakkout told Al Jazeera.

“We are worried about the scepticism and misinformation that is spreading in Gaza,” she said, adding that the campaign, which has also recruited local social media influencers and activists to help spread the message, seeks to support “the efforts of the authorities to encourage people to take the vaccine”.

“Our role as influencers is to talk about the vaccine and its benefits on our platforms, in order to dispel rumours and spread the correct information,” she added. “We can’t force people to take the vaccine, but at every vaccination centre there are doctors and nurses who first explain the safety and benefits and give out practical information before and after getting the vaccine.”

Dr Marwan al-Hams, director of the coronavirus ward at the Palestine-Turkey Friendship Hospital, said that despite the lack of medical equipment and supplies due to the blockade, Gaza “nevertheless has a cohesive health system” in comparison to other countries in the region.

“Thankfully, our cases in the Gaza Strip remain low in proportion to the population, but the lack of response from many people regarding the seriousness of COVID-19 – some flat-out deny that it exists – invariably leads to the spread of the disease,” he told Al Jazeera.

Al-Hams credits the setting up of a field hospital by the Rafah border crossing to quarantine incoming travellers as the reason for delaying a surge in cases in the Strip, which experienced its first serious outbreak of COVID-19 in November 2020.

The field hospital, which was ran by al-Hams, was closed down, and cases were initially then transferred to the European Hospital in Khan Younis, which had 300 beds and 60 in the ICU.

Here is a good place to remind everyone why this field hospital was closed down: because Hamas decided it was not providing the services it wanted.

“After the outbreak, every hospital throughout the Strip now has a COVID-19 ward,” al-Hams said. “There is no Delta variant yet but we do fear a third wave,” he added, issuing a plea to Gaza’s residents to get vaccinated.

“The vaccine is not an inoculation of death. They shouldn’t believe the misinformation that is circulating on social media but instead [get information] from reliable sources.”

So in other words, the vaccine refusal is due to misinformation spreading in Gaza. In the Gazans’ defense, they are already old pros when it comes to misinformation – it just usually involves the Jews.

Speaking of which, don’t be too shocked by the honesty of what I just reproduced from this Al Jazeera report – they still manage to fit in some good old fashioned Israel-bashing

On weekends, the enclave’s beaches are typically overwhelmed with families living under a crippling 14-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade that has, among others, restrained their movement beyond the Strip.

Gaza’s health infrastructure, already in bad shape due to the siege, was dealt another heavy blow during the last Israeli 11-day offensive in May, which killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children.

The bombings damaged dozens of health centres, including six hospitals and Gaza’s main COVID-19 laboratory, as well as the health ministry’s offices. Two prominent doctors – neurologist Moeen al-Aloul and Ayman Abu al-Ouf, the head of internal medicine at Shifa hospital who was also heading the COVID-19 ward – were among those killed.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t believe the virus even exists, and live on fatalism,” she said. “After the war in May, people have generally relaxed precautionary measures such as wearing masks. They say, ‘we didn’t die in the war, so how are we going to die from a virus?’”

When are people going to hold these people accountable for their own actions?


David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media

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