Bennett urges Arab Israelis to get vaccinated: ‘Rates are too low’

Minority lags with some 51% inoculated, compared to 66% of all Israeli citizens; though only one Arab town among 26 in country designated as ‘red’ area

Mohamed Agbariyah receives a coronavirus vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, January 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Mohamed Agbariyah receives a coronavirus vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination center in the northern Arab Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm, January 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday urged Arab Israelis to get vaccinated, citing relatively lower inoculation rates in the community.

“Immunization rates in Arab society are too low. I hereby call on anyone over the age of 60 to go and get vaccinated with the third vaccine, the booster shot. It saves lives,” Bennett said in a statement.

Arab Israelis have lagged behind their Jewish counterparts in receiving a coronavirus shot. According to the Galilee Society, an Arab Israeli health nonprofit, around 83% of Arab Israelis over the age of 50 had been vaccinated as of late last week, compared with 92% in Israel as a whole.

Some 51% of Arab Israelis have been vaccinated in total, compared with 66% of all Israeli citizens, according to the nonprofit, which bases its analysis on publicly available Health Ministry data.

“I call on young people who have not been vaccinated at all, and there are many: Go out today to get vaccinated. That way you will not be infected and will not infect. It will save the lives of your loved ones,” said Bennett.

Despite the relatively lower vaccination rates among Arab Israelis, little evidence suggests they are behind the wave of infections sweeping Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on August 8, 2021. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

Around 11% of COVID-19 cases were in Arab cities and towns last week, even though they constitute over 20% of the population.

As of Sunday, some 26 cities were designated high-infection “red” areas; just one of them was an Arab locality.

More broadly, the government is reportedly considering integrating the national lottery into its inoculation campaign as it seeks to incentivize the over one million eligible Israelis who have yet to be vaccinated to do so.

A budget of roughly $31 million has been set aside for national and local authorities to help incentivize vaccine holdouts, Channel 12 reported Friday, but Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked have not yet decided how best to spend it.

One option being considered is to offer greater funding to local authorities with higher vaccination rates, in order to encourage local leaders to push vaccination rates upwards, the network said. Another proposal would see individuals compensated directly, with hundreds of shekels being offered to families for each child over the age of 15 or 16 who gets vaccinated.

Yet another option being considered is to recruit the national lottery, which would enter those holdouts who get vaccinated in a raffle, with one winner receiving a grand prize and 100-200 others receiving prizes worth tens of thousands of shekels in total, Channel 12 reported.

Bennett, Shaked and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman all back the initiative, the report said, but it has faced legal hurdles for being available only to parts of the population.

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