Israel vaccinates some Palestinians after widespread criticism | DW News

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    Israel has been making swift progress in its COVID vaccination campaign. It currently has the highest vaccination rate in the world. But that’s only for its own population — and not Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This week though, the government bowed to international criticism, and began immunizing Palestinian laborers against the coronavirus who work in Israel.

    At a vaccination center at an Israeli checkpoint between the West Bank town of Bethlehem and Jerusalem, only Palestinians holding a permit to work in Israel or in settlements are vaccinated by Israeli authorities.

    Israel aims to vaccinate about 100,000 workers who cross over from the occupied West Bank to Israel every day. The country has faced criticism abroad and at home for not providing vaccines to more of the Palestinian population.

    But in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, ordinary people are still waiting for a broader vaccination rollout. In Ramallah, nurse Itaf has only a few vials to administer to her fellow medical colleagues.

    The Moderna vaccines were part of a one-time delivery by Israel. A small amount – but still seen as a relief for those having to deal closely with patients.

    The Palestinian Authority says it has procured vaccines from different companies. But it has come under public criticism for delays in delivery.

    In February, 10,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine arrived from the Russian government. Vaccines through the COVAX program providing vaccines for lower income countries are also expected.

    2,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccines were sent from Ramallah to the Hamas-controlled Gaza-Strip after Israel approved the transfer. The blockaded territory also received about 60,000 vaccine doses from the United Arab Emirates (organized by a political rival of Abbas) – for a population of 2 million.

    And it’s crucial: Infection rates in the West Bank have soared in recent weeks. In a private hospital on the outskirts of Ramallah, medical staff have seen a sharp influx of serious COVID-19 cases – attributed to virus-variants.

    Restrictions were tightened once again in the West Bank recently. A curfew on weekends and at night was already in place to curb the pandemic – while the wait for more vaccines continues.

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