Inside Oman's remote Bedouin village 'resisting' Covid-19 vaccines

Not one of the 200-strong tribe in the tiny oasis of Taweer has caught the virus

Villagers in Taweer, in Oman's Rub Al Khali desert, say they 'don't need' vaccination against Covid-19

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Deep in the vast expanse of Oman’s section of the Rub Al Khali desert, an isolated Bedouin group has refused to take the Covid-19 vaccination.

Although the number of cases is rising in the country, not one of the 200-strong tribe in the tiny oasis of Taweer has caught the virus since Oman registered its first case in February 2020.

The group says it fears the vaccine, and wants medical workers to stay away.

“Not only will we not go to the nearest medical centre to get vaccinated, but we beg them not to send doctors and nurses here," Khalid Al Naimi, 53, a villager, said over the phone. "God is with us and is protecting us from not only coronavirus but all man-made diseases. We have a natural immunity because of our faith in God and the way we live together. We do not need it.”

Taweer is reachable only by off-road vehicles and its residents have very little interaction with outsiders.

The villagers have refused rehousing offers under the government's social security scheme, saying they prefer to follow the traditional ways of Bedouin life.

The community is sceptical about vaccination and is "resisting", said a spokesman for the Department of Communal Health in Dhofar, in south Oman.

Villagers in Taweer, in Oman's Rub Al Khali desert

“Why should we be vaccinated? We don’t go to towns or town people do not come to us. We are completely isolated. It does not make sense that we get injected with something we do not need. We are not going to do it because the coronavirus vaccination will kill us all. We are okay and we will be okay without it, with the grace of God,” Mr Al Gharbi, 61, told The National.

While Oman has not made vaccinations compulsory, authorities have launched numerous campaigns to reassure the public of the safety of Covid-19 vaccines.

“The vaccines are safe and so far we have had only minor side effects but nothing drastic," said Dr Ziad Al Hinai, consultant of Infectious Diseases at the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Sultan Qaboos University.

"We urge all to come forward to vaccinate themselves without fear.”

Taweer is not the only isolated Omani village whose residents have rejected offers to move to more urban centres, but there are no official statistics available of people living off the grid.

Oman on Sunday reported 143 Covid-19 deaths and 4,662 new cases for a three-day period. No reports are given at the weekend.

The number of cases registered in the country since the pandemic began has reached 275,166, including 3,283 deaths.

Updated: November 1st 2021, 12:19 PM