Israeli Officials Concerned Over Low Inoculation Rate Among Arabs

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A nurse prepares a coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Rahat, December 21, 2020.
A nurse prepares a coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Rahat, December 21, 2020.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

More than a week after Israel launched is coronavirus vaccine drive, the Health Ministry reports that the response in the country’s Arab communities is below that of the Jewish population.

Several HMO clinics in Arab communities received approval from the ministry to begin vaccinating people under the age of 60, who are otherwise ineligible for the vaccine at this stage of the campaign. Nurses at Kupat Holim Meuhedet and Leumi Health Care Services clinics in certain Arab communities say they have called friends and relatives to urge them to get vaccinated.

There are no official figures on the number of Arabs who have been vaccinated. Ayman Saif, who heads the state’s coronavirus response in the Arab community, said the HMOs have been asked to break down their vaccination numbers by population group and this week community members will be polled in an effort to determine the reasons for the poor response.

Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Monday that half a million Israelis had been vaccinated and that he planned “to increase the pace even further.”

Sources told Haaretz the reasons are not merely technical. “Arab society is more suspicious of the establishment and of processes like this,” a source said. “We see this with the flu vaccine as well. There have been a number of information campaigns on television, radio, and by recruiting doctors from the Arab sector to provide information. We are making efforts and hope this gap will close in the coming days.”

In contrast, the ministry says the response to the vaccination campaign in Haredi communities has been high, especially after leading rabbis voiced support and were photographed getting the vaccine.

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