Many Yemenis do not feel the need to vaccinate people because of their religion, disbelief, or war.
At al-Thawra Hospital in the controversial Yemeni city of Taiz, a nurse without a face mask or protective equipment treats a small number of people who have shown interest in the COVID-19 vaccine.
He takes the AstraZeneca bottle in the cold box, warms it with his hands and asks for God’s name before inserting the gun into the left-hand man.
Yemen receives 360,000 doses from the global COVAX vaccination program, yet many Yemenis do not seem to want to inject drugs for religious reasons, disbelief in the vaccine, or the threat of war.
“We have received 70,000 doses in Taiz and started vaccination on April 21,” said Rajeh al-Maliki, head of the Yemeni Ministry of Health in Taiz.
“We can say that there is very little interest … we have distributed about 500 shares since we started, it is less than we expected,” Maliki said.
There has been a dramatic increase in Yemen this year, undermining treatment options already hit by the war, economic collapse and declining funding.
The Iranian-backed group in Houthi, which controls most of northern Yemen and other parts of Taiz, has been fighting the Saudi-backed government since 2014. Tens of people have been killed and millions are relying on aid to survive.
Al-Maliki and many other Yemeni doctors, including medical staff, believe the vaccine could be fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
The slums and shelter in the war-torn city make it difficult for many citizens to get to the hospital, he said.
People living in the Houthi-controlled area have to walk about 50km (30 miles) to avoid lines and get to a large government-run hospital.
“I contracted coronavirus, and I took the natural herbs and spices that our ancestors used. I was fine, ”says Ali Abdou, a 55-year-old resident of Taiz.
“We work hard with our bodies and they give us strong protection, one of us dies only when the time is right. This rare disease affects only the rich and we are not among them, ”said Abdou.
Mohammed Muthana, another citizen, said he would wait until authorities and doctors could get the vaccine to believe it.
At al-Thawra Hospital, Dr. Sarah Damaj has been trying to convince Yemenis that the vaccine is safe and does not break down quickly.
“People are scared because there are so many lies out there, especially on television,” he said.