COVID-19 testing and vaccinations

The long shadow of Covid-19 myths

Eventually, Elajouti’s mother came around and got vaccinated, as did most Moroccans. The country’s government claims that nearly two-thirds of Moroccans are fully vaccinated today. Although initially “the percentage of vaccination in Morocco was more than France” when the first vaccines became available, says Elajouti, the north African country now lags behind its European counterpart.

“The African region still has a long way to go to achieve 70% of people fully vaccinated in all countries,” say researchers behind a study led by Phionah Atuhebwe, vaccines introduction medical officer for Africa at the WHO. Although the reasons for this are complex, misinformation played a role.

“Misinformation related to Covid-19 has led to negative ramifications on vulnerable groups, particularly the pregnant women in the African region,” wrote epidemiologists behind another study that examined Covid-19 misinformation among pregnant women in Africa last year. “This ‘infodemic’ adds to further challenges in promoting vaccine confidence.”

The fight against the pandemic is not over, and neither is the 26-page lawsuit, which was filed jointly by the Moroccan Lawyers Club, the Council of Black Associations in France, and the French Jewish Union for Peace. Although a judge dismissed the lawsuit against Locht because his statements didn’t meet reasonable suspicion of violating the law, Mira still stands accused of “provoking discrimination against a group of people due to their origin” in violation of an 1881 French law. Mira’s plea hearing is scheduled for September 15 of this year.

If the court rules against him, he could face fines of up to €45,000 ($48,730/£39,550) and up to one year in prison, though Rachid Madid, the criminal attorney in Paris pursuing the case, says prison terms and high fines are rare in such cases.

“Our goal is not to send Mr Mira to jail or have him punished with a high fine,” says Madid. “It’s just that what he said is not acceptable under French law. We want him to understand that you cannot say something that is wrong and insulting for some populations – especially African populations.”

“They have to say that they respect the African population and consider them equal. That [the] African population are not lab rats,” says Elajouti. 

Jaouad El Bakili contributed to the reporting of this article.

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