Israeli health authority dispute leads to Palestinian vaccine delays

Palestinians in East Jerusalem face further vaccine delays after Israeli health services dispute

2 min read
30 March, 2021
Local Palestinian residents have complained of a slower vaccine rollout since operations changed hands.
Israel has been accused of neglecting Palestinians in its vaccine rollout [Getty]
A financial dispute between Israel's health ministry and Magen David Adom - the country's national emergency services - has significantly slowed the pace of vaccinations for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, according to a Haaretz report on Tuesday.

The disagreement has led to hundreds of Palestinian residents who are waiting for their second dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to be told to wait.

Many of those waiting for their second vaccine dose received their first jab more than three weeks ago, according to the Haaretz report.

Residents' reports are reflected in municipality data, which shows a significant drop in the number of East Jerusalem residents being vaccinated in recent days. The data shows a drop from over 2,000 people per day two weeks ago to less than 1,000 over the past week. 

The delay has been attributed to a financial dispute between MDA and the Israeli health ministry, which resulted in the emergency service abruptly halting its vaccine operations in East Jerusalem. The ministry then tendered a 4 million shekel ( $1,201,324) no-bid contract to the Novolog Health Care Group to take over vaccine operations in East Jerusalem.

Unnamed local officials cited by Haaretz have complained of a slower vaccine rollout since Novolog took over.

The delay is the latest episode in a series of reported failures by Israeli authorities to vaccinate Palestinians living under occupation and blockade in Jerusalem.

Data from early January showed that the pace of vaccinations in occupied East Jerusalem was significantly lower than in other areas under Israeli control.

At the time, only 20 percent of those aged 60 years and over had received the jab, compared to 70 percent of Israel's overall population.

It was at this point that MDA was charged with setting up vaccination centres in East Jerusalem neighbourhoods, while the Home Front Command rolled out a social media campaign to promote the drive.

The campaign saw the number of East Jerusalem residents who had received the vaccine's first dose rise to 70 percent, according to Haaretz.

Human rights groups and many Palestinians say that as an occupying power, Israel is responsible for providing vaccines to the Palestinians, while Israel says that under interim peace accords reached in the 1990s, it does not have any such obligation.

Israeli officials have said their priority is vaccinating its own population first, while the Palestinian Authority is obtaining vaccines through a World Health Organisation partnership with humanitarian organisations known as COVAX.

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