Palestinian Authority Receives First Shipment of Russian Sputnik V Coronavirus Vaccine

10,000 doses arrive in the West Bank, setting in motion the inoculation drive for the general Palestinian population, after medical staff received the COVID-19 vaccine from Israel earlier in the week

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A medic administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a fellow medic during a campaign to vaccinate front-line medical workers, at the health ministry, in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021
A medic administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a fellow medic during a campaign to vaccinate front-line medical workers, at the health ministry, in the West Bank city of BethlehemCredit: Nasser Nasser/AP

The Palestinians received on Thursday 10,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, enough to cover 5,000 people. The vaccines were transferred from Ben-Gurion Airport to the Palestinian Authority in coordination with the Israeli Defense Ministry.

The Palestinian Authority launched its vaccination campaign on Tuesday after Israel delivered 2,000 coronavirus vaccines to the West Bank on Monday, the first batch of 5,000 inoculations intended for Palestinian medical staff.

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The decision to dispatch vaccines to the Palestinian Authority came after a recommendation from the Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

This came after the Palestinian Authority struck agreements in January with four vaccine companies, which has included granting “emergency approval” for the Russian coronavirus vaccine to be administered in its territory, covering up to 70 percent of the population.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said on Saturday that the four companies would provide enough doses to vaccinate 70 percent of the PA’s population. The PA expects the World Health Organization to provide doses to cover another 20 percent.

Speaking on Voice of Palestine Radio on Thursday, al-Kaila added that a shipment of vaccines from China would also be arriving, but did not specify a date or which vaccine. A batch of around 37,000 doses from the COVAX global vaccine-sharing programme is expected later this month.

The Palestinian Health Ministry announced the start of the campaign in a statement, saying Health Minister al-Kaila received a first dose along with several front-line medical workers. The statement did not acknowledge that Israel provided the vaccines.

The Palestinians hope to acquire tens of thousands more doses in the coming weeks through a World Health Organization program.

Even if those deliveries materialize, however, it could take several months to administer enough vaccines to bring the outbreak under control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which are home to more than 4.5 million Palestinians.

The WHO said Monday that the PA would receive 37,440 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from mid-February “subject to approvals of supply agreements with manufacturers.” It said the PA would receive another 240,000 to 405,600 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine from mid- to late February subject to WHO emergency use approval. The PA says it will also buy thousands of doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, which a new study indicates is safe and effective.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines are being provided through COVAX, a WHO program designed to help poor countries acquire vaccines. Even if the Palestinians receive the upper limit of those deliveries, they would only be able to vaccinate up to 5% of the population of the West Bank and Gaza.

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