Many Yemenis seem reluctant to insulin on religious grounds, because of disbelief in the vaccine or because of the risk of war.
At Al-Thawra Hospital in the disputed Yemeni city of Taiz, a nurse with no face or protective gear inoculates a few people interested in the CVVID-19 vaccine.
He picks up an AstraZeneca vial from a cooler box, warms it with his own hands, and prays the name of God before injecting the shot into a person’s left arm.
Yemen has received 300,000 doses from the global COVAX vaccine distribution project, yet many Yemenis seem reluctant to insulin on religious grounds because of the vaccine’s disbelief or the risk of war.
“We have received 70,000 doses in Taiz and we have started the vaccination campaign on April 21,” said Rajeh al-Maliki, head of Yemen’s health ministry in Taiz.
“We can roughly say that there’s very little interest … We’ve delivered about 500 shots since we started, it’s less than we expected,” Maliki said.
Yemen has seen a dramatic spike in infections this year, with war, economic collapse and a lack of funding for aid putting pressure on an already devastated health system.
The Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which controls much of northern Yemen and Taiz, has been fighting the Saudi-backed government since 2014. Millions of people have been killed and millions are relying on aid to survive.
Al-Maliki and other doctors say many Yemenis, including medical staff, believe the vaccine will break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
They said checkpoints and snipers in the heavily-armed city made it impossible for many residents to reach the hospital, they said.
People living in the Houthi-controlled neighborhood have to travel about 50 kilometers (30 miles) to avoid the front lines and reach the government-controlled main hospital.
“I was infected with the coronavirus, I used natural herbs and spices that our ancestors used. I was fine again, ”said Ali Abdu, 55, a Taiz resident.
“We work very hard with our bodies and it gives us strong immunity, one of us dies only when the time comes. These rare diseases only affect the rich and we are not among them. “
Another resident, Mohammad Muthana, said he would wait until officials and doctors relied on it to get the vaccine.
Doctor Sara Damaz at Al-Thawra Hospital is trying to convince Yemenis that the vaccine is safe and does not break the fast.
“People get scared because there’s a lot of misinformation out there, especially on social media,” he said.