Protest held in Beirut against mandatory Covid vaccination
Under the banner “Employees Against Mandatory Vaccinations,” Lebanese came to express their opposition to mandating of vaccinations and measures against Covid-19, such as masking and PCR testing.
“No to mandatory vaccinations, no to the new normal, no to the Great Reset ... yes to immunity. It’s not about safety, it’s about control. The vaccine came out a year ago, and it’s allowed even though there are no studies on it,” Antonio Habr, a 28-year old protest attendee who works in a school, told The New Arab.
Another protester said he was participating “for spiritual reasons, because God created us free”.
“We want to encourage public and private sector employees not to be afraid: Come and protest. This is your freedom, just as we respect those who choose to take the vaccine, they should respect us,” Saba’ Hadad, a protester who works as a bodyguard, told The New Arab.
As of Monday, all public sector employees must be vaccinated or submit to a twice-weekly PCR test. The latter is an impossible task for most, as the dismal salary of government employees is barely enough to cover food and other essential goods.
Lebanon has enough vaccines for its population, but uptake is still slow, with almost 60 percent of the country unvaccinated. The country is in the midst of a new Covid wave, fuelled by the highly infectious Omicron variant following holiday gatherings.
Lebanon recorded 7,247 new cases on 6 January, with a test positivity rate of 16.4 percent — the WHO says that any rate above 5 percent indicates undertesting in a population.
Vaccine hesitancy is an issue in Lebanon, with institutional mistrust translating into suspicion of the vaccine’s purpose.
In mid-December, after US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea announced that the US was donating over 600,000 vaccines to Lebanon, controversy erupted over Lebanese social media.
The hashtag “The American Death Vaccine” trended, with social media users accusing the US of sending dangerous vaccines to Lebanon as part of the vaccines included in the donation were Johnson and Johnson brand. A few days prior, the FDA said other vaccines should be prioritized over J&J if possible.
“In our hospital and all hospitals of Lebanon, as well as the entire world, the majority of the patients and those who are in intensive care ... are not vaccinated,” Dr. Naji Abirached, the medical director of the Lebanese Hospital Geitaoui-UMC, told The New Arab.
“Lebanon has not yet reached the 50 percent protection from the vaccine. We need to go up to 70 percent to get community protection,” Dr. Abirached added.
As the protest kicked off on Saturday morning, the Ministry of Health launched a weekend vaccine marathon across the country to boost vaccination rates. Lebanese Minister of Health Firas Abiad said that by Saturday afternoon, 18 thousand doses had already been delivered.