Amid COVID-19 disinformation, Jewish women in UK urged to vaccinate

20% of London's haredi Jews who are severely ill with COVID-19 are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated, reflecting myths that the vaccine harms pregnancy and fertility.

People queue at Westminster Bridge to receive COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at a walk-in vaccination centre at Saint Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain, December 14, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE)
People queue at Westminster Bridge to receive COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at a walk-in vaccination centre at Saint Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain, December 14, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE)

Haredi leaders in London are spreading the message for young Orthodox women to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as vaccine conspiracy theories and other misinformation regarding the pandemic continue to keep vaccination rates low in the community.

In three largely Jewish London neighborhoods, vaccination rates remained low – at 53% in Cazenove, 52% in Stamford Hill West, and only 47% in Springfield – though in Hackney 60% of residents aged 12 or older were vaccinated, according to The Jewish Chronicle.

20% of London's haredi Jews who are severely ill with COVID-19 are pregnant women who have not been vaccinated, reflecting the popular myth that the vaccine harms fetuses, according to a report in The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

The United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS) distributed informational flyers about the danger COVID-19 poses to fetuses as well as mothers in Hackney, a heavily ultra-Orthodox community in the city, the report added.

"Vaccination is the safest way for women to protect themselves and their babies against severe disease," Dr. Leonora Weil, Public Health Consultant for COVID response of the London Operations Team at the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, wrote in the Chronicle. "The vaccines do not contain live virus so cannot infect a mother or baby and do not contain ingredients known to be harmful in pregnancy."

People wearing protective face masks walk past a boarded up public house in Hackney, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 22, 2020.  (credit: JOHN SIBLEY/REUTERS)People wearing protective face masks walk past a boarded up public house in Hackney, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, May 22, 2020. (credit: JOHN SIBLEY/REUTERS)

Weil also refuted a conspiracy theory that vaccines affect fertility, saying that there is no proof of this, and with the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, which is more resistant to existing vaccines than previous variants of concern, "every dose counts."

The Chronicle quoted an anonymous leader in London's ultra-Orthodox community as saying that people in the community had fallen "hook, line and sinker" for vaccine conspiracy theories.

Haredi leaders are urging everyone in the community to "get vaccinated or have the booster [shot]," The Algemeiner quoted the haredi Interlink Foundation's Joel Friedman as saying. He added that leaders were cooperating with public officials and that the Jewish volunteer first aid group Hatzalah was "continuing to play a vital role in communicating the importance of the vaccine," with some success so far.