Many Yemenis seem reluctant to be inoculated for religious reasons, out of distrust of the vaccine, or because of the danger of war.
At al-Thawra Hospital in the disputed Yemeni city of Taiz, a nurse without a face mask or protective equipment inoculates the few people who have shown interest in the COVID-19 vaccine.
He grabs a bottle of AstraZeneca from a colder box, heats it with his hands, and invokes God’s name before injecting the shot into a man’s left arm.
Yemen has received 360,000 doses of the global COVAX vaccine sharing scheme, although many Yemenis appear reluctant to be inoculated for religious reasons, vaccine mistrust or the dangers of war.
“We received 70,000 doses in Taiz and started the vaccination campaign on April 21,” said Rajeh al-Maliki, head of Yemen’s health ministry in Taiz.
“We can say with great force that there is very little interest … we have distributed about 500 shots since we started, it’s less than we expected,” Maliki said.
This year there has been a dramatic increase in infections in Yemen, which has led to a health system already affected by the war, economic collapse and lack of funding for aid.
The Houthi movement aligned with Iran, which controls most of northern Yemen and parts of Taiz, has been fighting the Saudi-backed government since 2014. Tens of thousands have been killed and millions depend on the government. ‘help to survive.
Al-Maliki and other doctors said many Yemenis, including medical staff, believe the vaccine would break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
Checkpoints and snipers in the heavily militarized city allow many residents to reach hospitals, they said.
People living in Houthi-controlled neighborhoods have to travel about 50 km (30 miles) to avoid the front lines and reach the main government-controlled hospital.
“I got infected with the coronavirus, I took natural herbs and spices that our ancestors used. I was fine again, ”said Ali Abdou, a 55-year-old resident of Taiz.
“We work very hard with our bodies and this gives us strong immunity, one of us only dies when his time has come. These rare diseases only affect the rich and we are not among them, ”said Abdou.
Mohammed Muthana, another resident, said he will wait until officials and doctors take the vaccine before he can trust it.
At al-Thawra Hospital, Dr. Sarah Damaj has tried to convince Yemenis that the vaccine is safe and does not break the fast.
“People are scared because there’s a lot of misinformation, especially on social media,” he said.