Vaccine misinformation blamed as 36-year-old ultra-Orthodox man dies of COVID

Jerusalem resident turned down shot because of false information saying it causes infertility, members of his synagogue say

Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jewish people attend a funeral in Jerusalem, October 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Illustrative: Ultra-Orthodox Jews attend a funeral in Jerusalem, October 12, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

JTA — Avraham Bedman, a 36-year-old man from Jerusalem, died of COVID-19 on Wednesday. His fellow synagogue members have blamed his death on misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine.

According to Kikar Hashabbat, an ultra-Orthodox news site, an email sent to members of Bedman’s synagogue claimed that Bedman did not get the coronavirus vaccine because he was afraid it would cause infertility.

Bedman’s fellow synagogue members called those who spread misinformation about the vaccine “murderers” and encouraged others to be vaccinated to save lives.

“He had the opportunity to be vaccinated, already at the beginning of the vaccination operation, because he was at risk, but he said he heard that it might cause him to not become a father,” a leader of the synagogue, Rabbi Yishai Lesser, told Kikar Hashabbat. “The one who made him afraid is responsible for his death.”

That falsehood has become widespread in Jewish religious communities in the US and Israel, prompting some in communities that prize having children, and where large families are expected, to fear the vaccine.

In Israel, despite the high death toll caused by the coronavirus in the ultra-Orthodox community, many have remained hesitant to take the vaccine.

A vaccine drive in Bnei Brak intends to serve cholent and kugel to encourage its ultra-Orthodox residents to be vaccinated.

In the US, religious doctors and nurses in recent weeks have worked to debunk misinformation about the vaccine and fertility with fact sheets and information sessions for women held over phone hotlines, but the misinformation has persisted.

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