Israel blocks delivery of coronavirus vaccines to Gaza

The Palestinian Authority claims that Israel has refused to allow the delivery of 2,000 vaccine doses intended for health workers deployed in COVID-19-related emergency services in Gaza

February 16, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Israel blocks vaccines to Gaza
(Photo: Quds News Network)

Continuing with the oppressive and discriminatory policies towards Palestinians in the occupied territories, Israeli authorities have now blocked coronavirus vaccine transfers to Gaza. In a press statement issued on Monday, February 15, Palestinian health minister Mai Alkaila said that “Israeli occupation authority is responsible for this arbitrary procedure which is contrary to all customs, laws and international agreements,” Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Israeli officials responsible for the decision said that permission to transfer vaccine doses to Gaza has been held pending a “political decision” from the higher authorities, Middle East Eye reported.

As per a decision announced in the beginning of the month, the Palestinian Authority (PA) had decided to transfer 2,000 doses of Russian Sputnik V vaccine to Gaza once it was received. According to the Palestinian health ministry, the doses were intended for health workers and medical staff working in intensive care units designated for COVID-19 patients.

Gaza has been under an Israeli land, sea and air blockade since 2006 and has been described as the “world’s largest open-air prison” by activists. It is a densely populated region, home to over 1.9 million Palestinians.

The Palestinian health minister has urged international organizations to put pressure on Israel to allow the vaccine doses to be transferred to Gaza. Palestine has recorded over 168,000 COVID-19 cases with over 1,900 deaths, so far. More than 53,000 cases and over 530 deaths have been recorded in Gaza.  

Palestine kicked off its vaccination drive on February 2 after receiving 5,000 doses of vaccine from Israel following a significant delay. Israel, as an occupying force, has denied its responsibility towards Palestinians and argued that as per the Oslo accords, the health of Palestinians is the responsibility of the PA. However, the Israeli claims have been refuted by international organizations, including the UN and the WHO. The Israeli policy of vaccinating its citizens, including the illegal settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories, but excluding Palestinians has been termed as vaccine apartheid or medical apartheid by different human rights groups.

The PA had approved Russian Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use last month. It started receiving the Russian vaccines this month. It received 10,000 doses of the vaccine on February 5.

The PA has announced the vaccination of at least 70% Palestinians. In order to achieve its target, the PA is expecting the delivery of more than 240,000 vaccine doses under the international COVAX initiative.