İrem UZUN -TDO- Israel has agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize front-line medical workers, Israeli deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz's office announced Sunday. It was the first time that Israel has confirmed the transfer of vaccines to the Palestinians, who lag far behind Israel's aggressive vaccination campaign and have not yet received any vaccines. UN experts say Israel has a responsibility for vaccinations there.
Neither the West Bank nor Gaza has started vaccination programs. Palestinian health officials say deals are being negotiated for vaccine supplies but it is unclear when they will start. The territories also hope to benefit from the World Health Organization-backed COVAX scheme, to supply vaccines to poorer states and nations, but again timings are unknown. A few thousand Russian-made vaccines have arrived but is unclear whom they have gone to. About 2.7 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, and another 1.8 million in Gaza.
In recent weeks, the United Nations and rights groups have piled pressure on Israel to help some 4.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to access vaccines, citing the Jewish state's obligations as an occupying power. "I confirm we are going to send 5,000 vaccines to medical teams in the Palestinian Authority," a spokesperson for Benny Gantz told AFP on Sunday. She said they were from Israeli supplies, but declined to say whether they were Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna. A Palestinian official, who requested anonymity, dismissed the shipment as "a symbolic move". It "will not help us," the official told AFP.