Corona vaccines … biological warfare in the Middle East? | Politics and Economy | In-depth analyzes with a broader perspective from DW | DW


Relief and human rights organizations fear that the “Covid-19” vaccine will become a tool for achieving the interests of governments and rebel groups in Middle East conflicts.

Annie Sparrow, a public health expert at New York’s Icahn School of Medicine, told DW that using vaccines in this way “is a form of indirect and passive biological warfare.”

Vaccination policy

Human Rights Watch has expressed its concern about the policy of providing Syria with vaccines, and the expert on Syrian affairs at the organization Sarah Kayali recalls that the current and potential closure of border crossings near areas controlled by the Syrian opposition, where millions of civilians still live, means that international relief agencies You will need permits from the Assad government to bring in vaccines. And even if they did manage to obtain permits, they would likely have to travel via Damascus, which “has significant restrictions”.

Kayali recalls that the Syrian government will try to make sure that its supporters are the ones getting the vaccine, adding that this is not surprising, as Damascus has previously used aid to punish people.

For example, a report issued in December 2020 by the US organization Physicians for Human Rights on health care in the Syrian region of Daraa indicated that the Assad government has denied aid to families who do not support them.

Syria Idlib protest against Assad regime

Syrian health workers in Idlib protest government attacks against them

Elsewhere in the Middle East, other groups are using the “Covid-19” vaccine in conflicts for their own purposes, and Leonard Rubinstein, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said that health care as a victim of conflict or as a tool in it is not new, and Rubinstein mentions To DW, “One example is what is happening in Israel.”

No vaccine for the Palestinians

Israel is the fastest in the world to vaccinate its population, and has sent doses of “Covid-19” hundreds of kilometers away to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but refused to provide assistance to vaccinate more than 2.7 million Palestinians living around them, and only sent 2,000 doses to the crew Palestinian Medical. According to the United Nations, instructions were issued inside Israeli prisons not to vaccinate Palestinian prisoners as well.

Israel says that according to the Oslo Accords, Palestinians should take care of their health needs. However, as the critics have pointed out, the Oslo Accords also contain a clause that says the parties must cooperate to combat “epidemics or infectious diseases.”

In addition, international humanitarian law states that the occupying power bears responsibility for the health care of the occupier, but Israel still denies its occupation of the West Bank.

Also read: Corona vaccination … a record speed in Israel, but what about the Palestinians?

‘Do not use vaccines’

In Yemen, where the war has been going on since 2014, the internationally recognized government announced that the “Covid-19” vaccines, which will be donated by the World Health Organization; It will only cover 20 percent of the population, but the government says it will distribute doses in areas controlled by the Houthi rebel group.

However, the Houthis have only allowed humanitarian organizations to provide aid to civilians in exchange for providing medical supplies for their wounded fighters, and it is believed that the disinformation could lead to an outbreak of the disease in Houthi-controlled places.

It was reported that religious leaders called on local residents not to use “vaccines made by Jews and Christians,” while the Houthi Minister of Health stated that they would develop their own vaccine.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which supports the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and is leading a coalition against the Iran-backed Houthis, has pledged to help fund the purchase of more vaccines. Nevertheless, the Saudi-led coalition launched more than 130 attacks on medical facilities in Houthi-controlled areas between 2014 and 2019, according to the Yemen Archive, which documents human rights violations in the country.

 Annie Sparrow is a public health expert at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York.

Annie Sparrow is a public health expert at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York.

The virus has only one job

The internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli will receive nearly 2.8 million doses of vaccines. Until relatively recently (a few days ago, a pan-Libyan government was elected but not yet formed), Libya was ruled by two separate authorities – one in the east, the other in the west, in Tripoli. But Claudia Ghazini, an analyst for Libyan affairs at the International Crisis Group, does not believe that vaccines will be used as a weapon.

Also read: Securing Corona vaccine for poor countries … the responsibility of rich countries as well!

The public health expert, Sparrow, believes that the various parties in regional conflicts may try to use the vaccine to advance their own agendas, adding that this is “stupid. You cannot protect your country unless you vaccinate everyone at the same time.”

She explains that the longer the population remains unvaccinated, the greater the opportunity for the virus to mutate, adding that these mutations may eventually be able to re-infect people who have already been vaccinated.

Sparrow summarizes her speech, saying that “the virus does not care whether you are Palestinian or Israeli, as its only job is development and infection.”

Catherine Shire / M.S.


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