Palestinian Authority to receive Russian vaccine 'within days'

PA to receive Russian vaccine 'in coming days' as Israel jabs quarter of population
3 min read
19 January, 2021
Israel - which rights groups say is legally obliged to provide vaccines to Palestinians - delivered at least one dose to 28 percent of its population by Tuesday.
Israel's vaccination program does not extend to 5 million Palestinians under its rule [NurPhoto]
The Palestinian Authority is set to receive Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in the coming days, a PA official said on Tuesday, as occupying power Israel gave at least one vaccine dose to more than a quarter of its population.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, the head of the PA’s General Authority of Civil Affairs, announced on Tuesday that the Russia shot will be received "within days".

Palestinian health officials said that the first in line for the vaccine would be medical workers, the elderly and those with chronic diseases - both in the occupied West Bank as well as Gaza.

Al-Sheikh's comments were echoed by the Palestinian ambassador to Russia, who said Moscow would send 5,000 vaccine doses to the West Bank, free of charge, "by the end of the week".

"We are working to seal an agreement with the Russian government to buy 100,000 doses, which are enough to vaccinate 50,000 people," Nofal told Reuters.

Nofal forecasted the deal as taking place in February, declaring 100,000 as the highest number of doses Moscow could sell the PA that month.

While Russia sells the double-dose vaccine for $18, the PA's cash-strapped government - who last week approved the shot - is trying to negotiate a lower prince, Nofal said.

Rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is split between the semi-autonomous Palestinian government and the Jewish State, whose vaccination campaign has been the fastest in the world.

By Tuesday, 28 percent of Israel’s 9 million citizens had received at least one dose. Israel's programme - which uses vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna - does not cover 3.1 million Palestinians in the West Bank or the 2.1 million in the Gaza Strip.

Rights group have slammed Israel for neglecting its responsibilities as occupying power - as defined by international law - by disregarding millions of Palestinians living in the occupied territories in its vaccination programme, as well of thousands of Palestinians languishing in jails.

Read more: Human Rights Watch says international law requires Israel to vaccinate Palestinians against Covid-19

Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Sunday that the Fourth Geneva Convention required Israel to assure to provision of medical supplies, including vaccine "in a nondiscriminatory manner".

It said that Israel's obligation to vaccinate Palestinians was "heightened after more than 50 years of occupation with no end in sight" and rejected the argument made by Israel's health minister that vaccinating Palestinians was the responsibility of the PA.

Appearing to somewhat yield to the pressure, Israel's Prison Service has begun incarcerating prisoners, including Palestinians.

Israel had faced harsh criticism when Public Security Minister Amir Ohana said Palestinian prisoners would be the last to inoculated.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organisation recorded more than 170,000 Covid-19 cases in the occupied territories, including 1,889 deaths.

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