RAMALLAH, West Bank/GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinians on Monday received 100,000 doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by China to help broaden an initial campaign to vaccinate medical staff, the elderly and the chronically ill.
Palestinian health authorities have been mounting a limited vaccination drive among the 5.2 million people living in the Israel-occupied West Bank and Gaza, using vaccines provided by Israel, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.
So far, more than 69,000 Palestinians have received their first dose of the vaccine, and around 7,600 people have had both shots, according to a health ministry statement.
Israel has come under international criticism for not doing more to enable Palestinians living in areas it occupies to be inoculated, while its national vaccination drive has been one of the fastest and most efficient in the world.
It says it has vaccinated more than 100,000 Palestinian workers with permits to enter the country or Jewish settlements in the West Bank but that the Palestinian Authority bears overall responsibility for inoculations in self-rule areas.
After the arrival of the Chinese shipment, Palestinian Health minister Mai Al-Kaila said in the West Bank city of Ramallah that recent restrictions such as curfews and weekend lockdowns had helped to relieve pressure on crowded hospitals.
“We will continue (vaccinating) our medical staff in the clinics for the public sector and the private sector, dentists and pharmacists, (and) for other categories that have immediate contact with the population,” Kaila told Reuters.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) plans to cover 20% of Palestinians through the COVAX mechanism. PA officials hope to procure additional vaccines to achieve 60% coverage across the West Bank and in Gaza, which is run by the Hamas Islamist group.
Health officials have reported 227,808 coronavirus cases and 2,511 deaths since the pandemic began.
(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Zainah El-Haroun; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Raissa Kasolowsky)