Corona vaccine fears in Gaza: Fake news holds sway over facts

Gaza has over 80,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, but only 8,500 have been vaccinated due to fake news scares.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Residents of the Gaza Strip are avoiding coronavirus vaccinations due to rumors being circulated on social media, Reuters reported Thursday.

Although the Hamas terror organization that controls Gaza has received 83,300 doses of vaccine donated by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the UN’s global COVAX programme, only 8,500 people have gone to clinics so far to get vaccinated, a health official said.

“Some people told me, are you insane? Wait until you see whether it is good or bad,” Leena Al-Tourk, a 28-year-old Palestinian lawyer, told the news agency while waiting at a clinic. Al-Tourk said social pressure is against getting the vaccine, with people sharing stories of possible side-effects from the shots on social media.

“Of course, I will not take the vaccine. They say on social media it can lead to blood clots,” said Ahmed Nasser, 57, a civil servant.

However, the issue of blood clot side effects relates to the AstraZeneca vaccine produced in Europe, and not the Russian Sputnik V vaccine that is being used in Gaza.

To date, there have been 57,000 reported cases of coronavirus and 572 deaths in Gaza, where the population is roughly two million.

“We are targeting 150,000 people from category number 1: the elderly, medical personnel and patients with chronic and serious illnesses, who may develop serious symptoms if infected,” Majdi Dhair, deputy director of prime healthcare in Gaza told Reuters, but added that only 26,000 Gazans had registered to be get vaccinated with misinformation on social media being a cause.

In Judea and Samaria, Israel began a program earlier this month to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinian workers who either go to jobs in Israel daily or are employed locally in areas where they mix with Israelis.

The Palestinian Authority has been criticized by the Palestinians themselves over its inability to obtain vaccines and launch a widespread vaccination program.

Despite assertions by PA health officials last November that they had the situation under control, their promises that millions of doses would arrive beginning at the end of December proved hollow and the PA has relied mostly on vaccines provided by Israel.