Israel to Transfer 5,000 COVID-19 Vaccines to Palestinian Medical Staff in West Bank

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A coronavirus ward in a Ramallah Hospital, January 28, 2021.
A coronavirus ward in a Ramallah Hospital, January 28, 2021. Credit: Nasser Nasser / AP

Israel will deliver 5,000 coronavirus vaccines to the West Bank intended for healthcare workers, following a recommendation from the Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

The first batch is set to be delivered to the Palestinian Authorities in Ramallah this week, with no exact date being offered by Israeli authorities. 

Two weeks ago, Israel answered a request from the Palestinian Authority and sent 100 vaccines to Ramallah for medical personnel.  This latest shipment of 5,000 vaccines constitutes the second shipment of vaccines to the West Bank from Israel. 

On January 29, 575 new coronavirus cases were recorded in the West Bank and Gaza, along with 11 new deaths according to data service Worldometer. According to the data, there are 8,205 active coronavirus cases in the West Bank and Gaza. 158,168 coronavirus cases have been recorded across the territories since the start of the pandemic, and 1,823 people have died from the coronavirus. 

Last week, a shipment of 5,000 vaccines from Russia to the Palestinian Territories was delayed, and is expected to arrive in the coming days.

A patient lies in a coronavirus ward in a Ramallah Hospital, January 28, 2021. Credit: Nasser Nasser / AP

The shipment, containing the Russia-developed "Sputnik V" vaccine, was meant to be transferred via the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan. 

In December, the Palestinian Health Ministry's head of public health said that the Authority expects to eventually receive 4 million doses of the Russian vaccine. 

Palestinians are also seeking to purchase vaccines from Astra-Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, but no time frame has been determined, nor the number of vaccines. 

The Palestinian Authority's Health Minister, Dr. Mai al-Kaila said last week that the agreements with the four vaccine companies will provide enough doses to inoculate 70% of the West Bank. 

Israel has come under criticism from within the U.S. Democratic Party regarding inadequate distribution of vaccinations for Palestinians. 

Israel’s vaccination campaign, which has included settlements in the West Bank, has excluded Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. While the Palestinian Authority is responsible for health care in territories under its control per the Oslo Accords, critics say Israel has a responsibility to provide vaccines.

Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro told Haaretz that he’s “disappointed and concerned” by developments. “I commend Israel for leading the world on vaccinating its people, but I’m disappointed and concerned by their government’s exclusion of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation from these vaccination efforts, despite making COVID vaccines available to Israeli settlers in the West Bank,” said the Texas congressman, who recently unsuccessfully ran for the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s chairmanship.

Rep. Jamaal Bowman, the newly elected Democrat from New York who defeated pro-Israel stalwart Eliot Engel in the Democratic primaries, echoed Castro's remarks. "Netanyahu must ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians have access to the Covid vaccine. This cruelty is another reminder of why the occupation must end," he tweeted.

Rep. Marie Newman, a first-term congresswoman from Illinois, was the first Democratic lawmaker to criticize Israel for not providing Palestinians with access to vaccines while distributing them to Jewish settlers.

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