Coronavirus outbreak in Bedouin village that refused vaccinations

Health official fumes in frustration as half of wedding guests test positive in Bedouin town where residents turned away a vaccination team.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The coronavirus coordinator for Israel’s Bedouin community vented his frustration at a huge virus outbreak in a village where the residents had turned away a health ministry vaccination team, saying they didn’t want it, Kann News reported Monday.

A wedding held two weeks ago in the Bedouin village of al-Amrani near the southern desert city of Beersheba turned into a super-spreader event, with half of the people who attended testing positive for the coronavirus. Results so far show 65 out of 122 wedding guests have coronavirus and officials are waiting for the results for almost 100 other people who were either at the wedding or in contact with the guests afterwards.

Last month, all residents in the village aged 16 and up were offered vaccinations by a mobile Health Ministry clinic that would have driven right into the village.

“When I received the infection data at that wedding from the Ministry of Health, I did not believe it,” said Dr. Mazen Abu Siam Marhat, the coronavirus coordinator for the Bedouin sector. “I asked to see if this was a mistake. What is 50% infected?”

“This is one of the highest figures in the country ever,” Dr Marhat told Kann News. “It’s just absurd, people are dying in Europe and doing somersaults in the air to get vaccinated, in the West Bank they are willing to pay thousands of dollars to get vaccinated, and here they have the vaccine available, delivered to their house – and nothing.”

The vaccination rate among Israel’s Bedouin population is low, with only 34% over the age of 16 having been vaccinated or recovered so far from the virus – compared to about 90% of the general population.

As of Monday, 4.8 million of Israel’s 9.3 million citizens have been fully vaccinated with two shots of the Pfizer vaccine. Another 430,000 Israelis have received the first dose of vaccine, which is given in two injections several weeks apart.

As a result of the vaccination campaign, coronavirus infections in Israel have dropped dramatically, and the number of Israelis sick with the virus – especially those needing hospitalization – has continued to decline.

The head of Israel’s national coronavirus task force said Sunday that Israel was waiting for American authorities to approve the vaccine for younger teenagers, and they expect to start vaccinating Israelis aged 12-15 by the end of the month. Vaccines for children under age 12 have not yet been approved.