With Israel gearing up to begin its mass vaccination program as early as next week, a new poll published Tuesday has found that less than a fifth of the population are willing to get inoculated immediately, with significant gaps existing both between men and women and between Jews and Arab Israelis.
According to the survey conducted by the University of Haifa and overseen by its Prof. Manfred Green, an expert on public health policy, only 20.3 percent of Israeli Jewish respondents and 16% of Israeli Arab respondents said they would be willing to be among the first to take the vaccine.
Broken down according to gender, 27.3% of the Jewish men and 22.8% of Arab men said they would like to be vaccinated immediately, compared to only 13.6% of Jewish women and 12.2% of Arab women.
The Israeli public’s attitude towards vaccination, however, appears to change dramatically over the long run with a total of 58.6% of Jewish men and 41.2% of Israeli Arab men indicating that they would be willing to take the COVID-19 shot after thousands had been vaccinated, compared with 41.4% of Jewish women and 25.2% of Israeli Arab women.
The poll, which surveyed 900 respondents aged 30 and over, found that 7.7% of Jewish men, 29.4% of Israeli Arab men, 17.2% of Jewish women, and a striking 41.2% of Israeli Arab women would refuse the vaccine “under any circumstances.”
Amid the start of immunization efforts, health officials have expressed concern about public reluctance to be immunized.
Previously published polls have shown that 50 to 75 percent of Israelis are leery of getting the coronavirus vaccine shot, apparently out of fears that the rush to produce an inoculation may have compromised its safety.
Announcing his new findings, Green said Tuesday that, “there appears to be a striking lack of trust in a large part of the whole Israeli population, and particularly among Arabs and women, in a COVID-19 vaccine.”
“Israel will soon have COVID-19 vaccine doses available, but we need to deal with the issue of trust in the vaccine, or we may not witness the kind of demand for a vaccine that we thought it would have,” he said.
Green warned that for Israel’s vaccination program to be effective, “we need to greatly improve and expand the information on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.”
Israel is taking delivery of millions of vaccines shots, beginning with the Pfizer inoculation, which has been approved for use in the US by the FDA.
The Health Ministry on Monday told health maintenance organizations that Israel’s COVID-19 vaccination drive will kick off next week, with members of the general public to begin receiving vaccinations on December 23.
The planned rollout of the vaccine comes as Israel grapples with a rising infection rate and passed the grim milestone of 3,000 coronavirus deaths on Monday.
According to the latest Health Ministry figures, there are 18,832 active virus patients in the country. Since the start of the pandemic earlier this year there have been 360,630 cases diagnosed in the country, and 3,014 people have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.