Hundreds of vaccine vials destroyed as Aceh fishermen thrash venue 

At least 156 COVID-19 vaccine doses perished after a group of fishermen and fish sellers in Aceh thrashed a jab venue on Tuesday, leading to three arrests thus far.

The venue, which was set up at a fish market in Susoh district, had been used for the area’s inoculation drive for at least three months. Fishermen and sellers believed that the venue’s presence discouraged people from going to the market, affecting sales and their income.

Around 300 aggravated people descended to the venue on Tuesday morning, destroying vials of the Sinovac vaccine, medical equipment, as well as tables and chairs. Footage of the incident have circulated widely.

A doctor stationed at the venue said some among the crowd antagonized and assaulted the vaccination staff, causing several minor injuries.

Military and police officers managed to regain control of the situation within minutes of arriving. They later detained suspected provocateurs of the assault.

“At the moment there have been three [arrests], but there may be more,” Aceh Provincial Police spokesman Winardy said yesterday.

Aceh has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates by province in Indonesia. According to the Health Ministry, one major reason for the low rate in the staunchly Islamic province is the false belief that vaccines contain ingredients that are haram (forbidden for consumption by Muslims). 

Even before COVID-19 and its vaccines existed, misinformation surrounding vaccines for other diseases has been prevalent in Aceh, slowing inoculation drives in recent years.

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