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Public Opinion and the Vaccination Campaign

Public Opinion and the Vaccination Campaign

Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 30

A massive wave of videos, text and audio messages has flooded people in Saudi Arabia in recent days, warning them of the COVID-19 vaccines, questioning their efficacy and suggesting that they are dangerous to human subjects. Unfortunately, these messages have managed to increase widespread doubts about the vaccination campaign, especially since this topic is already thorny and contentious among different segments of the population. Meanwhile, medical experts and scholars have been slow to take to the public stage to diffuse rumors of the vaccine since they are busy tending to overcrowded hospitals and clinics or conducting cutting-edge research that would help slow down the spread of the disease. All of this contributed to a rather distorted public perception of the COVID-19 vaccination. Make no mistake: these campaigns are far from spontaneous. They are organized for political, economic and commercial reasons. They are part of the battle over money and influence. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Saudi Arabia has taken strict precautionary measures to curb the spread of the pandemic and allocated significant budgets to fight it. Indeed, it is one of the first countries to launch a vaccination campaign and to provide it for free to its citizens and residents. Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah set an example by being the first one to receive the Pfizer vaccine, followed by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in addition to a host of ministers, government officials, and members of the Royal House. Can anyone really imagine that an unsafe vaccine would have been administered to Saudi Arabia’s most senior officials, including the Crown Prince? Every person has the right to choose whether or not to vaccinate. It is up to each individual citizen to allay his or her concerns or fears with rigorous scientific inquiry and reliable medical information. However, it is completely illogical, irresponsible and irrational for people to listen to unsubstantiated rumors and form a decision on the vaccine on the basis of fake news. Without an effective vaccination campaign, thousands of additional Saudi families will be affected by the crisis. Awareness is the basis for action and, without it, we will be unable to overcome this pandemic. The most important thing we can do as a nation is make sure that correct and reliable information is made available to the public, to encourage a widespread uptake of the vaccine. – Hassan Al-Mustafa (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)


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