Israel rolls out Covid vaccine jab but excludes over 2 million Palestinians living under its occupation

29th Jan 2021
Israel rolls out Covid vaccine jab but excludes over 2 million Palestinians living under its occupation

General Staff of the Israel Defence Forces members being vaccinated against COVID-19 on December 28 (Credit: Michal Shamir / IDF Unit)

Nadine Osman

Despite a recent spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths stemming from the virus, Israel’s ‘Give a Shoulder’ vaccination campaign, excludes 2.5 million Palestinians living under its control. Illegal Jewish settlers living in the occupied West Bank are, however, eligible for vaccination.

Major human rights groups say Israel, which controls the territories’ borders, is obligated to vaccinate Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza under international law.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, hosted the Global Vaccine Summit last June, and he agreed there would be no discrimination on vaccinating people; people all over the world would be able to access vaccines.

His spokesman was asked the PM’s view on Israel’s refusal to provide Covid-19 vaccination to the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, he replied that the PM agreed there should not be discrimination on access to vaccination and that “we are signatories to the COVAX and Gavi pledges, we obviously want to ensure that everybody across the world has access to these vaccines.”

He added that countries had “a commitment to ensuring the poorest and vulnerable across the world can get access to vaccinations…it’s for each country to determine their own policy.”

As of January 4, it was reported that over 442,000 people had tested positive for the virus and over 3,400 people have died, meaning the country with a population of 8.8 million had one of the world’s highest per capita infection rates.

Israel reached an agreement with the Pfizer pharmaceutical company to supply 8 million doses of its newly approved vaccine, enough to cover nearly half of Israel’s population since each person requires two doses.
Israel reached a separate agreement with Moderna earlier this month to buy six million doses of its vaccine, enough for another three million Israelis.

However, millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation will have to wait much longer.
They will have to wait for the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the occupied West Bank per interim peace agreement reached in the 1990s, to provide them.

The Palestinian Authority hopes to get vaccines through a World Health Organisation-led partnership with humanitarian NGO COVAX, which has so far fallen short of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy over the next year for those in poorer countries. Palestinians have only one refrigeration unit capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine.

The Palestinian Authority has reported more than 85,000 cases in the West Bank, including more than 800 deaths, and the outbreak has intensified in recent weeks.

The situation is even direr in Gaza, home to two million Palestinians and which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas took power in 2007. Authorities there have reported over 30,000 cases, including 220 deaths.

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