Two thousand Covid-19 vaccines were delivered to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday – the first ones to arrive in the territory.
The vaccines were transferred from the Palestinian Authority in coordination with Israel. The PA, which is responsible for acquiring vaccines for both the West Bank and Gaza, has in recent weeks begun its vaccination programme roll-out, which includes this consignment of Russian-made Sputnik V vaccines.
The PA and Hamas have issued conflicting statements over the intended recipients of the vaccines arriving in Gaza, with Hamas health official Majdi Dahir claiming they are to be distributed to high-risk civilians.
In the opening stage of its vaccination programme in the West Bank, the PA started with healthcare workers using an initial shipment of 10,000 Sputnik V vaccine doses.
Israel recently provided 2,000 Moderna vaccines to the Palestinian Authority for health workers, and is set to provide an additional 3,000. Around 400 Palestinians, residents of East Jerusalem as well as Palestinians who have permits to work in Israel, were vaccinated last week at a Magen David Adom station near the Qalandiya checkpoint.
In East Jerusalem, the willingness of Palestinians to be vaccinated has reportedly been low. Only 13% of East Jerusalem Palestinians had been vaccinated against coronavirus as of Monday night, compared to approximately 23% of all Jerusalem residents.
Hamas and the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority are bitter rivals following a civil war in 2007 but have sought to work jointly in the distribution of vaccinations to end the Covid-19 pandemic. While the PA is anticipated to distribute most vaccines in the West Bank, the WHO has confirmed that some vaccines will be arriving into Gaza via Israeli ports.
According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, 169,487 Palestinians have tested positive for the coronavirus in the West Bank and Gaza, and 1,942 have died of Covid-19. The true figure is expected to be much higher owing to lower rates of testing, and a preliminary study by the PA Health Ministry found coronavirus antibodies in 40% of Palestinians surveyed.