Some Israeli Arabs, Palestinians wary of vaccine

Israel has become a world leader in the race to administer COVID-19 vaccines - but some of its Arab citizens - and Palestinians in annexed East Jerusalem - are proving skeptical of the shot.

Officials believe misinformation about possible side-effects or supposed malicious properties has led to lower turnout in those groups.

Jerusalem resident Marouf Alyino has his doubts about the vaccine - and says many Arabs are getting their information about the jab on social media.

"I will not be vaccinated because I don't know what is in there. I don't know what the positive or negative side effects are. No one explained to me anything about it. (...) Everyone is looking at Facebook and social media sites, where we hear about someone dying (after the vaccine), another one who got an allergy, or they got the virus itself. We, as Jerusalemites and Arabs, will stay away form the vaccine and I will refuse to be vaccinated."

It's less than a fortnight since Israel launched its vaccination drive on December 19th.

And the Health Ministry said on Thursday (January 7) that 17.5% of the population, and 70% of citizens aged 60 or older, had already received their first shots.

Farida Mahajneh, the director of a vaccination center in the northern town of Umm al-Fahm, said turnout was "meagre" at first - but attendance numbers are now on the up.

"The center was opened nine, ten days ago, in the beginning the turnout was somehow low, but today the turnout is increasing day after day among the Arab residents, I am talking about Umm Al-Fahm area and it's surroundings. People should know that everyone should be vaccinated and it is safe."

The slow-down in some Arab communities has prompted citizens from the Jewish majority to seek clinics there in the hope of finding shorter lines.

Sometimes, leftover vaccines have been given to walk-ins - who aren't within a high-risk priority group.