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US News: in the Netherlands, doctors are working to vaccinate the Conservative Protestants

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Un soignant administre une dose de vaccin contre le Covid-19 à Utrecht, aux Pays-Bas, le 19 novembre 2021 © Ramon Van Flymen a caregiver administers a dose of VVID-19 vaccine in Utrecht, the Netherlands, November 19, 2021

of its Urk's firm, small town of isolated and very religious fishermen in the north of the Netherlands, Dr. Wilco Bloed tries to convince those who resist the vaccine against coronavirus, persuaded that God is on their side.

Des Néerlandais manifestent contre la vaccination à Utrecht, aux Pays-Bas, le 17 octobre 2021 © Jeroen Jumelet Dutch manifest against vaccination in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on October 17, 2021

only about one-third of the inhabitants have been vaccinated in this city known for its historical opposition to vaccination. Urk, 20,000 inhabitants, is nestled in the heart of the "Bijbelgordel", the Bible belt, an expression that refers to conservative Protestant localities in the country.

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Une vue de la ville majoritairement protestante conservatrice d'Urk, une des moins vaccinées des Pays-Bas, prise en juin 2016 © Remko de Waal A view of the predominantly Protestant conservative city of URK, one of the least vaccinated in the Netherlands, taken in June 2016

in the face of recrudescence of the number of cases of COVID-19, reaching records at the level National, URK doctors launched their own vaccination campaign in a final attempt to convince refractories.

The doctors of the city propose to the inhabitants to vaccinate them themselves, in their firm, a familiar place, rather than in a vaccination center.

Since the beginning of this initiative in October, the vaccination rate has risen to 35% but this figure remains well below the national rate among adults in the Netherlands, of the order of 84.7%.

"Aversion for vaccination was large enough", concedes Wilco Bloed, who settled in Urk 15 years ago.

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"It is true that urk inhabitants can be quite stubborn," he says.

- "Divine Providence" -

Urk, which has nearly twenty steeps, was the starting point in January from the worst riots for several decades in the Netherlands, provoked by the establishment of a coverage national fire against the virus.

Then warming up with journalists in front of the churches that continued to organize masses despite the restrictions. Last weekend, the city was the scene of new disorders, without common measures however with the hit in Rotterdam or The Hague.

seventy years ago, Urk was still an island. Since then, it has been attached to the continent after huge dewatering projects but has kept its island mentality.

"If the rest of the Netherlands does one thing, Urk does the other," said Jacob, 21, came fishing in the harbor with a friend.

Some believe that being vaccinated returns to intervene in the will of God and two years ago, Urk has experienced a measles epidemic.

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"On the one hand, the Bible says that one can take precautions. We can therefore prepare for some crises" like coronavirus, says Alwin Uitslag, Reverend from the Dutch Reformed Church in URK.

"On the other hand, it is said that vaccination is not allowed because you intervene in Divine Providence," he adds to AFP.

- The religion, but not that -

Alwin UitSlag describes his Church as "strict", with two religious services on Sunday, day during which the stores are closed and it is forbidden to work. Women must wear dresses and put a scarf.

But the choice to vaccinate against coronavirus is the responsibility of the "individual conscience" of people, believes the reverend, without wanting to specify whether it is vaccinated.

Science and religion are not always good but the doctors and reverends of Urk are trying to find together the best way forward.

Even finally, religion remains "makes it a very small part" of the problem, observes Wilco Bloed.

The fear of side effects, URK isolation - far from the government to the Hague -, misinformation and a young population explain "largely" the low vaccination rate, analyzes the doctor.

The results of the local vaccination campaign, conducted with the Dutch health authority (GGD) and the municipality, are encouraging, although it still remains to be done.

"During the first week and a half, the same number of injections was administered that what the GGD had done in four weeks before, although we see that number slow down a little," says Bloed.

The doctor is also a member of the Reformed Church, it does not prevent him from advocating vaccination: "Look, I'm as Christian. And yes, we are not obliged to agree on everything."

DK / CVO / TBM

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