Conspiracy theories with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now vaccines, are a dime a dozen on the internet. So it was only a matter of time before someone brewed a concoction of vaccine conspiracies and homophobia.

A popular Orthodox Rabbi in Israel is now floating disinformation that getting a vaccine against COVID-19 could turn people gay. Not that it would be a bad thing!

The statement from Rabbi Daniel Asor comes in the background of the world hitting over 92 million coronavirus infections and around 1.98 million deaths. Israel has recorded over 510,063 cases and 3,771 deaths so far. The country is presently conducting a rapid roll out of the vaccine and has already vaccinated around 20% of its population.

‘Alarming’ Claims In A Pandemic

Aleph Melbourne, a Jewish LGBTQI advocacy group, said that the Rabbi’s statement was “alarming” for the harm it propagates. 

“It’s alarming to hear such ignorance and nonsense being peddled by a Rabbi to his community, particularly in the middle of a pandemic,” Michael Barnett, co-convenor of Aleph Melbourne, told Star Observer.

“Claiming a COVID-19 vaccine could alter a person’s sexual orientation is about as ridiculous as claiming that eating a pickled herring could make you pregnant.”

According to Barnett, besides the false claims, the issue here is the harm it could cause to the intended audience of the sermons and the larger community. 

“The problem here is that the closed religious community, that this Rabbi heads, is unlikely to have access to sensible health advice and is prone to believing what he proclaims. Similarly, the community would be broadly intolerant of homosexuality due to religious teachings, and if they were told the vaccine would make them gay they would be terrified of having that outcome,” said Barnett. 

“Sadly this is a no win situation while the Rabbi in question maintains his lunatic stance,” Barnett added. 

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 COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories

Israel Hayom reported that Rabbi Daniel Asor in an online sermon dissuaded his followers from getting the vaccine claiming a link to homosexuality. “Any vaccine made using an embryonic substrate, and we have evidence of this, causes opposite tendencies. Vaccines are taken from an embryonic substrate, and they did that here, too, so… it can cause opposite tendencies,” the Rabbi misguided his followers. 

Asor’s list of conspiracies range from calling the World Health Organisation and Pharma companies like Pfizer and Moderna “criminal organisations” that are deliberately misleading ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders into supporting vaccinations to claiming that a “global malicious government” of Freemasons, Illuminati, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and others are behind the virus and vaccines.

On social media, many called out the Rabbi over his statements saying he risks “killing many of his own people.”

COVID-19 Vaccines

A year after the COVID-19 virus was first identified, vaccines have been approved in many countries. The three main vaccines that have received approvals are from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca. 

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 Australia is likely to roll out its vaccination program in February after approvals are granted by the Therapeutic Goods and Administration.  The two main vaccine candidates in Australia are from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Australia has bought around 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccines that are 95% effective. This will be distributed to ‘first priority’ populations, including quarantine and border workers, frontline health care, aged and disability care staff, and aged and disability care residents. 

Most Australians are likely to get the AstraZeneca vaccine – Australia has bought 53.8 million doses of the vaccine – that has reported an efficacy of around 70%.

Resources:

The CDC website has information about the benefits of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

For information about COVID-19 vaccines in Australia, check the Department of Health website.

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