Palestinians to launch COVID-19 vaccinations in West Bank, Gaza in mid-February

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The Palestinians are to receive a first batch of 50,000 coronavirus vaccines by mid-February, when they will launch inoculations in the West Bank and Gaza, their prime minister said Monday.

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Speaking ahead of a Palestinian Authority weekly cabinet meeting, Mohammed Shtayyeh said the procurement had been secured through various sources, including the UN-backed Covax program, set up to provide vaccines to less wealthy states.

“Vaccination will start in the middle of this month,” Shtayyeh said.

The prime minister said the vaccines would be allocated to the 2.8 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the two million people in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Hamas Islamist movement.

Israel, which is conducting the world’s fastest per capita vaccination campaign according to most estimates, has faced mounting international pressure to ensure the Palestinians are vaccinated.

The Palestinian Authority has not publicly asked for Israel’s help in facilitating a mass vaccination campaign.

But the UN and leading rights groups have said Israel is obligated to do so, citing its obligations under international law as an occupying military power.

Israel’s defense ministry said Sunday that it would send 5,000 vaccine doses to the PA to inoculate medical workers.

A Palestinian health ministry official, who requested anonymity, told AFP that 2,000 of those doses had been delivered on Monday.

The PA has recorded more than 107,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 1,300 deaths.

In Gaza, Hamas has registered more than 51,000 coronavirus cases, including 520 deaths.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six Day War and maintained a blockade on Gaza since 2007, the year Hamas took power in the coastal enclave.

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