Palestinians who are living in Israel without legal residency may receive the coronavirus vaccine, the Health Ministry told Physicians for Human Rights on Tuesday.
The group, which Physicians for Human Rights estimates number in the thousands, comprises of Palestinians in many different situations: at-risk groups such as suspected collaborators with Israel and those who left the Palestinian territories because of their sexuality, as well as Palestinians who lack legal residency status but whose “center of life” is in Israel because of marriage.
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The organization asked the Health Ministry last month to clarify its policy on this group, after many of them requested to receive the vaccine and were refused.
A senior project manager for reducing inequality in health and poverty in the Health Ministry signed the announcement, said Physicians for Human Rights. This was confirmed by the Health Ministry's spokesperson.
The inoculation campaign will be restricted to certain locations. The majority of the group lives in Tel Aviv, and will be able to receive the vaccine in a compound in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood in south Tel Aviv, while Palestinians living in the Negev will vaccinate in Be’er Sheva. Israel is still weighing where Palestinians who fall into the family reunification category will be inoculated – with East Jerusalem currently being considered.
Physicians for Human Rights said the ministry’s announcement arrived after public pressure mounted in recent weeks, following the exclusion of Palestinians whose "center of life" is in Israel in the Health Ministry's expanded drive for people without legal residency status in Israel.
Dr. Zoe Gutzeit, director of the migrant department at Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, said the move was necessary due to both moral and public health considerations, adding that, "it is a shame that the decision was made – once again – only as a result of public pressure, and after wasting valuable time and great distress.”
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Until now, the health of Palestinians whose lives are based in Israel has been risked, said Gutzeit. The organization called on the Health Ministry to learn their lesson and provide equal treatment in real time.
Last week, the Health Ministry approved for the Tel Aviv municipality and Ichilov Hospital to restart the rollout of the first dose of the vaccine to foreign workers and asylum seekers, after the ministry announced it would stop operations at the vaccination compound in Neve Sha’anan. The ministry approved the vaccination of around 400 people a day with the first dose of the vaccine, along with providing the second dose to those who had been vaccinated previously.