China on Monday, March 29, donated 100,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the occupied Palestinian territories. The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine will primarily be used to vaccinate medical workers, the elderly and the people in the high-risk category. Besides China, the Palestinian Authority (PA), which runs the administration in the occupied West Bank, has also received vaccines from other sources, including 60,000 doses from the United Nations COVAX initiative and 60,000 Russian Sputnik V doses which were delivered to Hamas-run Gaza via the United Arab Emirates.
The PA’s health minister Mai al-Kaila said that “these vaccines would largely contribute to the acceleration of the community vaccination roll out in Palestine,” while also thanking the Chinese government for their “generous support” and the World Health Organization for facilitating the delivery of the shipment. In her remarks, she also said that the priority will be to vaccinate the medical staff in the public and private sector both along with other groups of people who are in immediate contact with the rest of the population.
The Chinese ambassador to the PA, Gui Wei, in a statement said that this “[represents] a commitment to the promise China made to put vaccines at the service of the world.” 20,000 doses of Sinopharm were also transferred to Gaza.
The Palestinian authorities launched a campaign this month to vaccinate its citizens over the age of 75 as well as at-risk patients after receiving vaccines via the COVAX initiative. The Palestinian health ministry reported that as of March 29, 69,000 Palestinians have received the first and 76,000 have received both doses of the vaccine. The authorities hope to vaccinate at least 20 percent of the total population of 5.2 million through the COVAX program. The PA in the long term hopes to vaccinate 60 percent of the total population of the West Bank and Gaza strip, a monumental task in the face of restrictions due to the Israeli occupation as well as the lack of cooperation from the Israeli government authorities.
Israel which has blockaded Gaza since 2006 has received widespread international criticism for its apathy and failure to provide vaccines to Palestinians living in occupied territories. As an occupier, Israel is obliged under international law to provide medical support to the people it occupies. On the one hand, the Israeli has the highest ratio of most people vaccinated for every 100,000, and 4.6 million Israelis out of a total population of 9.2 million (50.07%) receiving both doses of the vaccine. Israel has only vaccinated 105,000 Palestinians who hold work permits to work in Israel or in the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israeli government officials tried to justify their refusal to vaccinate the Palestinian population saying the Palestinians are responsible for their own health measures in semi-autonomous areas under their control, but human rights groups and activists have rejected the Israel’s excuse for their inaction.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging and claim lives in the Palestinian territories. According to Wafa News Agency the health ministry figures reported 227,808 total cases till Monday and total number of deaths at 2511, out of which 175,000 cases and 1,995 deaths have been recorded in the West Bank and 63,742 cases and 604 deaths in Gaza. Palestinian authorities have been implementing several restrictive measures such as lockdowns, short weekend lockdowns, night curfews besides trying to shore up its vaccination drive with the help of the international community.