COVID-19: Palestine’s vaccine rollout criticised as footballers and ministers get VIP treatment | World News


Coronavirus vaccines meant for Palestinian medical workers have been administered to VIPs including ministers and the national football team, the country’s health ministry has admitted.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which runs parts of Gaza and the West Bank, confirmed details of the jab rollout after criticism from human rights and civil society groups, who urged an investigation.

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Palestinian health workers being vaccinated earlier this month
Image:
Palestinian health workers being vaccinated earlier this month

In a statement, the health ministry said 10% of the 12,000 doses it received were given to the football team, ministers, presidential guards, and members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee.

Another 200 doses went to the Jordanian royal court, after a request from Amman.

But defending the programme, it said the other 90% went to health workers treating COVID-19 cases in intensive care units and emergency departments, and health ministry staff.

Several Palestinian human rights and civil society groups had claimed the rollout was not transparent.

“The incoming information and testimonies point to ongoing cases where vaccines are obtained by several parties, in disregard of the principle of priority in distribution,” the groups said in a joint statement earlier this week.

The West Bank and Gaza, home to a combined 5.2 million Palestinians, have received around 34,700 coronavirus vaccine doses to date.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – who last month announced the first elections in 15 years – has long faced accusations of nepotism and cronyism.

The health ministry said the ministers and security officials who received vaccines were “in direct contact with the president and the prime minister”.

Others who got the jab were election officials – and the country’s football team needed vaccination certificates because they were travelling abroad “to represent Palestine in a match”.

Former Palestinian health minister Jawad Tibi receiving a dose of the vaccine last month
Image:
Former Palestinian health minister Jawad Tibi receiving a dose of the vaccine last month

A 12-day lockdown for the West Bank was announced on Saturday after a surge in coronavirus cases.

On Tuesday, minister of health Dr Mai al-Kaila said there were 1,626 new cases in West Bank – which represents a continued upward trend – and 14 deaths recorded in same 24-hour period.

In Gaza, 98 new cases and two new deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.

Vaccine donations have come from Israel and Russia, as well as 20,000 sent by the United Arab Emirates to Gaza.

The numbers lag far behind Israel, which has vaccinated more than one-third of its nine million people in one of the world’s fastest roll-outs.

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Jabs cause 94% drop in infections in Israel

Palestinians have accused Israel of ignoring its duties as an occupying power by not including them in its inoculation programme.

But Israeli officials have said that under the Oslo peace accords, the PA health ministry is responsible.

The Covax scheme, the global initiative to get vaccines to poorer nations, has yet to provide any for Palestinians but a delivery is expected this week.



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