Israel to Vaccinate Palestinian Workers at Settlement and in Checkpoint Starting Sunday

Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf
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Palestinians on their way to Israel at a checkpoint near Ramallah, last year.
Palestinians on their way to Israel at a checkpoint near Ramallah, last year. Credit: Emil Salman
Hagar Shezaf
Hagar Shezaf

The Israeli campaign to vaccinate Palestinians with permits to work in Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank is set to begin on Sunday, and a pilot will start on Thursday at a checkpoint.

Vaccines from Moderna have been allocated for the 120,000 Palestinian workers. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said the inoculations will take place at compounds placed at eight checkpoints in the West Bank and in four settlements.

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The West Bank and Gaza, home to a combined 5.2 million Palestinians, have received around 34,700 vaccine doses to date. These came from small donations by Israel and Russia as well as 20,000 sent by the United Arab Emirates to Gaza.

The numbers lag far behind Israel, which has vaccinated more than one-third of its nine million people in one of the world's fastest roll-outs.

Palestinians have accused Israel of ignoring its duties as an occupying power by not including them in its inoculation programme. But Israeli officials have said that under the Oslo peace accords, the PA Health Ministry is responsible.

The Palestinian workers will be vaccinated on a voluntary basis, and COGAT said they have explained to employers they are not allowed to force employees to vaccinate. Employers will be responsible for scheduling appointments and they will not be allowed to come to the compounds independently.

The vaccination centers, staffed by Israeli medical teams and representatives of the Civil Administration and the Defense Ministry's Crossing Points Authority, will be set up on the Israeli side of the checkpoints. The idea is for the workers to receive a shot as they return home to the West Bank after work.

The Israeli authorities said they also plan a campaign to encourage workers to get vaccinated and refute conspiracy theories concerning the vaccine, which have been spreading on social media. One of those mock the workers as "lab rats."

COGAT has produced videos in Arabic for social media, with information on the advantages and safety of the vaccines and officials also plan to be interviewed by Palestinian media. 

Reuters contributed to this report.

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