RAMALLAH — Many in the Palestinian Authority are wondering when the first deliveries of the COVID-19 vaccine will arrive for Palestinians who are desperate to reduce the severity and spread of the coronavirus and, eventually, stamp it out entirely.
The Palestinians have yet to receive a vaccine shipment, while Israel is leading the world in its vaccination campaign having inoculated some 1.5 million citizens in just a few weeks, some 15% of the population.
Health Ministry spokesman Kamal Al-Shakhra announced that the British vaccine, AstraZeneca, would reach the PA in mid-February, but Health Minister Mai Alkaila denied that there was a specific date for the vaccination’s arrival.
On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh announced that the PA agreed to import four types of vaccines within the next two months including the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. This makes the Palestinian Authority the first country in the Middle East to grant emergency approval for the Russian vaccine.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health also denied a report that Israel transferred 20 vaccines to the PA for “special humanitarian cases.” The Israeli Kan broadcaster reported that dozens of vaccines were secretly transferred from the Israeli government to the Palestinian Authority leaving many to wonder whether the PA actually did receive the vaccines without disclosing it.
However Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh tweeted a statement from the Palestinian Authority: “We refused to accept 20 doses of vaccine from Israel. The offer was made by unofficial Israeli parties. We are working to obtain vaccines from WHO and companies around the world.”
A nighttime curfew remains in effect in the West Bank from 7 p.m. through 6 a.m. and a complete curfew every Friday and Saturday, the traditional weekend days in most of the Middle East, in order to contain the spread of the virus. The restrictions are supposed to end on Sunday, but could be renewed if the high number of infections – reaching 1,500 a day – does no go down.
The Ministry of Health estimated that four times this number is actually getting infected every day, but due to the low percentage of those getting tested, the number is likely inaccurate.