Palestinians secure enough vaccines for 70% of population

The Palestinian Authority signs contracts with four coronavirus vaccine providers.
Thursday 14/01/2021
Palestinian health workers register samples for coronavirus testing in the West Bank village of Dura, southwest of Hebron, on January 8, 2021.  AFP
Palestinian health workers register samples for coronavirus testing in the West Bank village of Dura, southwest of Hebron, on January 8, 2021.(AFP)

RAMALLAH--The Palestinian Authority said it signed contracts with four coronavirus vaccine providers, including Russia’s Sputnik V, and should have enough supply to innoculate 70% of the population in two months.

“The health ministry has signed contracts with four companies for the delivery of vaccines that will arrive in two months,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said.

The Palestinian vaccination campaign will start with health workers, the sick and elderly, Shtayyeh said Monday.

He specified that the procurement was intended to cover the 2.8 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, as well as the 2 million Palestinians in Israel-blockaded Gaza.

The PA previously said that it expected to receive an initial supply of vaccines under the UN-backed Covax programme, which aims to help poorer nations address the pandemic.

An official with the Palestinian health ministry, Yasser Bouzia, said the contracts signed are worth a total of $21 million.

The deals are with Pfizer-BioNTech, the British partnership between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, US company Johnson & Johnson and the Russian vaccine developers.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila confirmed in a separate statement that the PA had approved the use of Sputnik V.

Russia began vaccinations with Sputnik in early December, even though it was still in its third phase of clinical trials.

The rushed procedures raised concerns that the vaccine was part of Moscow’s efforts to bolster its geopolitical influence.

The PA has not publicly said whether it has sought vaccines from Israel, which is carrying out an aggressive national innoculation campaign.

But the Palestine Liberation Organisation on Monday called on the international community “to hold Israel to account” and ensure the Jewish state provides vaccines to all Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

Five Israeli human rights organisations on Monday also filed a supreme court petition urging authorities to vaccinate Palestinians in Israeli custody.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, a rights group, 190 Palestinian inmates have tested positive for coronavirus since April.

The Palestinian health ministry has recorded more than 102,000 coronavirus cases in the West Bank, including 1,164 deaths.

In Gaza, ruled by Hamas Islamists, more than 45,000 cases have been registered, including 447 deaths.