Palestinians Receive First Shipment of COVID-19 Vaccine (with VIDEO)
The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in the Palestinian territories. The vaccination campaign began on Sunday with the inoculation of thousands of Palestinian health workers, the elderly and sick.
The Palestinian Authority health minister administered the first dose.
Lucia Elmi, UNICEF special representative to the State of Palestine, told The Media Line that there is a huge demand for vaccines, but COVAX, the global alliance to provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, was able to secure the first shipment for the Palestinians.
“The state of Palestine is one of 18 countries only globally that are receiving the first wave of the vaccine. We just received 61,000 doses of vaccines, AstraZeneca and Pfizer, that we helped as UNICEF to deliver to the West Bank and Gaza,” she said.
Elmi says there are many challenges slowing down the delivery of vaccines.
“Some of the challenges were of course that it’s a global commodity that is very scarce. So, it was really a matter of timing, the pressure of starting vaccination as soon as possible,” she said. In addition, some of the vaccines also require special conditions, such as being kept at a very low temperature to remain preserved.
Ramallah resident Antoine Iskandar Alhan brought his son, who has cancer, to get vaccinated.
“I thank God that vaccination was provided in Palestine. Please everyone adhere to wearing masks,” he said.
Dr. Ayadil Saparbekov, acting head of emergency programs for World Health Organization, told The Media Line that the doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the West Bank with the help of the COVAX program.
“WHO has been instrumental in supporting the efforts of the Ministry of Health in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak,” he said.
The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been hard hit by the pandemic.
Hospitals are flooded with patients as a spike in coronavirus cases has brought the Palestinian health system to the verge of collapse.
More than 2,400 Palestinians have died of COVID-19, and close to a quarter of a million have been reported infected across the West Bank and Gaza since the pandemic began.
Palestine Liberation Organization officials over the age of 65 have been given shots, including Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is 85.
Abbas on Saturday published a photograph of himself getting vaccinated. It was not clear when the picture was taken.
The PA sent appeals to the international community for help.
Elias Awad, a priest of the Greek Orthodox Parish in Ramallah, was one of the religious leaders who got inoculated on Sunday.
“Praise be to God. Today, the vaccination arrived in Palestine, and our people began to be vaccinated. I was from the first batch, and we thank God for the arrival of the vaccination,” he told The Media Line.
PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told Palestinians that his government has set aside an additional $12 million to procure vaccines.
“The problem is not the money, but the availability of vaccines,” he said.
Praise be to God. Today, the vaccination arrived in Palestine, and our people began to be vaccinated
About 60,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine have reached Gaza from the United Arab Emirates, facilitated by Mohammed Dahlan, a political rival of Abbas, who is exiled in Abu Dhabi.
The PA is waiting for another 100,000 doses from China, and UNICEF says it plans to deliver more vaccines before the end of the year.
“This is the first wave … and between now and December we will receive enough vaccines for 20 percent of the population, which is approximately one million people,” Elmi said.
The rollout of the Palestinian vaccine campaign comes ahead of the first Palestinian election in 15 years. Legislative elections are scheduled for May 22 and a presidential vote for the end of July.