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Vaccine conspiracy theories flood Morocco

A screenshot of a recent World Health Organization report on the coronavirus in Morocco.

Fez, MOROCCO – About 25% of Moroccans are fully vaccinated, according to data published by Reuters, a number that might seem like a good and promising fact.

But some Moroccans don’t want anything to do with the vaccine against covid-19, which is on the rise in this north African nation. 

In Morocco, more than half a million people have had covid-19, according to the World Health Organization. As of late June, the WHO said, the virus had killed more than 9,000 people here.

A scene on the street in Fez, Morocco. (Manar Lezaar/YJI)

But with the spread of vaccines, the country has also witnessed conspiracy theories, some of them that argue against the authenticity of covid-19 and the productiveness and safety of the vaccine. 

There are many conspiracy theories about the vaccines and they differ wildly.

A social media post from a Moroccan news site showing a man attempting to demonstrate that the vaccine magnetized his arm. (Screenshot by Manar Lezaar/YJI)

Some of them say that the vaccine aims to turn people into robots for big monopolies, while others argue that these vaccines are medications in a practice stage, with people being used as “experiment rats.”

One of the most viral conspiracy theories in the country right now is that the vaccine plugs an electronic chip inside the arm of the person getting the shot that makes their arm magnetic.

Some people try to prove this theory by taking pieces of iron and seeing if it will stick to their arm.

Surprisingly the iron product does sometimes attach to the vaccinated arm. Is it a magic trick or maybe smart video editing?

How did that happen? We’ll never know, but my parents and some family members were so thunderstruck with the video that they tried to replicate it on their own arms.

It didn’t work. 

Governments all around the world are increasing incentives to push or promote the vaccine. Some places are offering cash payments, chances at a lottery, even free alcohol or marijuana.

A screenshot of from a Moroccan website showing a man trying to demonstrate that the vaccine has magnetized his arm. (Manar Lezaar/YJI)

Other governments are withholding help or threatening to fine people who refuse to get vaccinated.

These incentives made Moroccans more suspicious of the legitimacy of the vaccine. I’ve overheard people talking with friends, family members or those they meet in the course of a day – taxi drivers, grocers – asking why governments even care whether they get the vaccine or not.

Others question how it bothers anyone else if they choose to risk death by not getting a vaccine. They say the government never cared about them before, not even when they were starving during the lockdown, so why the sudden concern?

Most Moroccans had a very tough 2020. Many people lost their jobs and had no means to support themselves and their families. That’s why they don’t trust this sudden care they’re seeing from the Moroccan government and its huge effort to persuade the people to take the vaccine.

So far, Morocco isn’t taking measures or using any force to make the people take the vaccine. How could they? The situation is very tense here, with different information spreading online and new conspiracy theories rising almost every day on Facebook and Whatsapp – two of the largest media hotspots for millennials and the aging population in Morocco.

It feels like everyone is waiting for the exact moment that the government announces a certain procedure to force the public to take the vaccine. If that happens, there is no telling what these skeptics will do.

Manar Lezaar is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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