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The New Arab Staff

Palestinian Authority begins vaccinating frontline medical workers

Israel has faced mounting pressure from the UN to ensure Palestinians are vaccinated [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 February, 2021

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The PA’s health ministry says it has more than 12,000 front-line health workers dealing with Covid patients.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) began administering Covid-19 vaccines in the occupied West Bank for the first time on Tuesday, Palestinian officials said.

The limited campaign kicked off amid concerns that the number of vaccines - delivered by Israel after strong opposition - would cover less than half of all frontline healthcare workers in the occupied territories.

Medical personnel were inoculated at Hugo Chavez hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, Reuters report.

Bassil Bawatneh, the hospital's director, hailed the move as "wonderful step".

Israel transferred 2,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Moderna on Monday, the first batch of 5,000 shots earmarked for Palestinians.

The move came after the country, which is conducting the world's fastest per capital vaccination campaign according to most estimates, faced mounting pressure from the UN and rights groups to ensure Palestinians gain access to vaccines.

They say Israel - as an occupying military power - is obliged to do so under international law. Israeli officials have denied such a responsibility, maintaining that their own citizens are the priority.

Nida Ibrahim, a Ramallah-based journalist, told Al Jazeera that Israel's allocation of 5,000 shots was "not enough to cover a fraction of what Palestinians need".

"The health ministry is saying there are more than 12,000 front-line workers in the health sector dealing with Covid patients in Intensive Care Units and they are all in urgent need," she said.

"There are also five million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and they've had no access to a vaccine until now," she added.

PA Health Minister Mai A-Kaila confirmed vaccinations had started and that her ministry would receive 5,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine within days and another 37,000 through the UN-backed COVAX programme, set up to provide equitable global distribution of vaccines.

Read also: Palestinians say will launch vaccinations in two weeks

She added that a supply of doses would be sent to Gaza, an Israeli-blockaded territory under control of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, enabling the inoculation of frontline workers there.

The West Bank has so far reported 101,221 coronavirus cases, with 1,271 deaths, while Gaza has registered more than 51,000 cases with 523 deaths.

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