WHO Raises Concerns About Covid Vaccine Distribution in Palestine

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  • Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “WHO Raises Concerns About Covid Vaccine Distribution in Palestine” – below is their description.

    A Palestinian health official on Monday said that the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be administered in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the first quarter of 2021.

    Yasser Buzieah, Director General of Public Health at the Palestinian Health Ministry, said the Palestinian Authority (PA) will get the first vaccines through a World Health Organization-led partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.

    COVAX aims to provide free vaccines for up to 20% of the population of poor countries, many of which have been hit especially hard by the pandemic.

    “We received an official letter saying that Palestine is a key member in this organization (COVAX) and the process of supplying vaccines will begin during the first quarter of 2021,” Buzieah told the Associated Press.

    The PA, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank in accordance with interim peace agreements reached in the 1990, is in talks with Pfizer and Moderna as well as AstraZeneca and the makers of a largely untested Russian vaccine.

    Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories the Palestinian seek for their future state, in the 1967 Mideast war.

    Israel boasts one of the earliest and most successful vaccination campaigns in the world, with some 2 million doses administered since late December.

    The campaign includes Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in annexed east Jerusalem.

    The World Health Organization has raised “concerns” about the unequal distribution of coronavirus vaccines in Israel, which has given shots to more than 20% of its population, and the occupied territories, where Palestinians have yet to receive any.

    “We have discussions with the Israelis on a number of levels, also from higher levels of our organization, trying to explore the option, whether Israel could consider to allocate vaccines to the Palestinians,” Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub, head of the WHO office for the Palestinian territories, told the AP.

    He said that the “primary target” would be frontline health workers.

    Under the Oslo accords signed in the 1990s, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for health care in the territories it administers, while both sides are to work together to combat epidemics.

    The Palestinian Authority’s reluctance to publicly ask Israel for help could reflect concerns that doing so would open it up to allegations from Israel and others that it was unable to provide for its own people or that it is not ready for statehood.

    Rockenschaub declined to weigh in on the political dispute, but said that from a public health standpoint Israel has an interest in the Palestinians being vaccinated.

    “It will be very difficult to ensure full protection of the Israeli population, while not, you know, ensuring also that adequate vaccinations are done on the Palestinian side,” he said, pointing to the estimated 140,000 Palestinians who regularly cross into Israel for work.

    Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have struggled to contain their outbreaks, which have fed off one another as people travel back and forth — mainly tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers employed in Israel.

    Israel has reported more than 550,000 cases, including more than 4,000 deaths.

    The Palestinian Authority has reported more than 104,000 cases in the West Bank, including more than 1,200 deaths, and the outbreak has intensified in recent weeks.

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