Israeli media reported that Rabbi Daniel Asor, who has amassed a large online following, also claimed inoculation efforts were part of a “global malicious government“ trying to ”establish a new world order”.
While his claim of a link between the vaccine and homosexuality is factually incorrect, it also contradicts statements from leading orthodox rabbis who have called on their followers to come forward for a coronavirus jab.
According to news outlet Israel Yahom, Mr Asor used a recent sermon to claim: “Any vaccine made using an embryonic substrate, and we have evidence of this, causes opposite tendencies. Vaccines are taken from an embryonic substrate, and they did that here, too, so ... it can cause opposite tendencies," seemingly referring to homosexuality.
Responding to his comments, LGBT+ rights group Havruta joked that it was “currently gearing up to welcome our impending new members”.
Israel is aiming to have administered vaccines to 5 million of its 9 million citizens and reopen the economy by mid-March, as it presses ahead with one of the fastest rollouts anywhere in the world.
More than 2 million Israelis have already received one dose of the jab while around 225,000 have had a second shot.
A senior health official said on Friday the country was in the “final stages” of the pandemic and those aged 45 and over would be offered the vaccine from Sunday, in a sign of the rapid pace of the Israeli programme, which has already reached more than one in five of its population.
“Israel, with the scale of its vaccine drive, is showing the world that there is an exit strategy,” Ronni Gamzu, who was advising the government on Covid before returning to his job as director of a hospital in Tel Aviv, told Channel 12 news.
The country has seen its percentage of seriously ill over 60-year-olds drop in line with the mass rollout of the vaccine.
However criticism has fallen on the government after it emerged millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control will have to wait much longer for the jab.
Israel's vaccination campaign will include Jewish settlers living deep inside the West Bank, who are Israeli citizens, but not the territory's 2.5 million Palestinians, nor those living in Gaza.
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