Italian Holocaust survivor and Senator for life Liliana Segre’s attempt to encourage other older adults to receive the COVID-19 vaccine has triggered a wave of antisemitic comments and other invective on social media.
Segre, 90, received the first of the two-shot vaccine in Milan on Thursday. She urged people who reach her age “to not be afraid and to take the vaccine.”
“I’m not afraid of the vaccine, I’m afraid of the illness,” she said.
After Segre’s comments received negative social media attention, Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese expressed solidarity with her and denounced the “new and unacceptable attack” which he said was marked by “a very dangerous mix of hate, violence and racism.”
Segre publicly bared a shoulder to receive her vaccine injection at a hospital on the first day that Milan began administering the shots to residents age 80 and older. She said that she believed that those who refuse to be vaccinated are “either too frightened or not informed enough.”
“So, as a 90-year-old grandmother, I tell my ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ who reach this age to not be afraid and to take the vaccine,” she said.
Segre holds one of Italy’s highest honors. In 2018, President Sergio Mattarella made her a senator-for-life in tribute to her years of speaking about the Holocaust with Italian schoolchildren in classrooms across the nation.