Palestinian Authority Launches COVID Vaccine Drive

Jack Khoury
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A U.N. convoy carrying coronavirus vaccines heading to a Palestinian health ministry's warehouse,in West Bank city of Ramallah, last week.
A U.N. convoy carrying coronavirus vaccines heading to a Palestinian health ministry's warehouse,in West Bank city of Ramallah, last week.Credit: Nasser Nasser,AP
Jack Khoury

The Palestinian Authority has embarked on its vaccination campaign Sunday, the Palestinian Health Ministry reported.

The first groups to be inoculated will be medical staff, cancer patients, patients suffering renal failure, and people over the age of 75, the statement said. While dialysis patients will be prioritized, chemotherapy patients would have to finish the treatment before being inoculated.

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As part of the vaccination process, individuals would have to register in order to be vaccinated, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

On Saturday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released a picture of him being vaccinated. Palestinian pundits are questioning whether the photo was in fact taken on that day or three weeks earlier, and if the president's office just decided to release it now to coincide with the vaccine drive. 

The Palestinian Authority has confirmed that it got the vaccine doses from Israel, and that among those to be inoculated are Fatah's Central Committee members above the age of 65.

Last week, the Palestinians received their largest shipment of the inoculation to date: 60,000 vaccines from the World Health Organization's COVAX scheme, with 40,000 earmarked for the West Bank and 20,000 for the Gaza Strip. 

This came after the Palestinian Authority acquired 10,000 Sputnik V vaccines last month, while Mohammed Dahlan, a former senior Fatah official and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' chief rival, secured a delivery of 20,000 jabs for the Gaza Strip from the United Arab Emirates, where he has been living in exile. Dahlan also announced in March that 40,000 more vaccines arrived in Gaza, with half due to be sent to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has also administered the first dose of the COVID vaccine to 105,000 Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel or in West Bank settlements. On April 4, the vaccination centers – eight at checkpoints, and five within settlements – will reopen for the second round of vaccination. 

Israel also provided 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine to the Palestinian Authority.

The vaccination drive in the Palestinian territories has been a matter of international dispute, with several high-profile lawmakers in the U.S. sending a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to push the Israeli government to do more to help Palestinians to receive adequate supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The letter echoed criticism by human rights organizations that it is Israel's responsibility to "to provide for the health and well-being of all people under its control."

The pandemic in the Palestinian territories has flared-up in recent weeks, with the Palestinian Health Minister, Dr. Mai al-Kaila, stating that hospital occupancy is at 115 percent in Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Jericho, while 44 percent of patients in intensive care units are on ventilators, as of Wednesday. 

A total of 2,055 people have died of COVID in the West Bank, while 574 have died in Gaza.

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