International report

Glaring contrast in Covid vaccination rates between Israel and the Gaza Strip

Audio 05:07
A medical worker collects a swab sample from a woman to be tested for the coronavirus disease in the southern Gaza Strip.
A medical worker collects a swab sample from a woman to be tested for the coronavirus disease in the southern Gaza Strip. REUTERS - IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA

The health authorities in the Gaza Strip say that a new wave of Covid-19 infections is hitting the coastal enclave, with more than one hundred cases being reported on a daily basis since mid-March. In the absence of adequate supplies of vaccines, there is a danger that a new lockdown will have to be imposed.

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Health officials in Gaza have already begun vaccinating residents over the age of 55, those with chronic diseases such as kidney failure, as well as front-line health workers.

The vaccination drive in the territory comes against a background of an increasing number of cases of Covid-19 over the past two weeks, with Gaza authorities warning of a second wave of the pandemic.

Dr. Majdi Dohair is head of preventive medicine with the Gaza-based health ministry. Dohair told RFI that there are currently 80,000 doses of vaccine, all donated by the United Arab Emirates.

"We hope for at least 240,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Covax programme and more through direct purchase by the Palestinian Ministry of Health.".

The Gaza-based ministry say that they lack equipment that could diagnose other forms of the Covid-19, such as the African and the British variants that have recently appeared in some other countries.

More recently, Gaza authorities began imposing some preventive measures, including a partial curfew and limitations on the number of people attending wedding parties.

Call for help to the World Health Organisation

In the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohamed Eshtiya, has recently launched an appeal to the World Health Organisation and to friendly countries, asking them to pressure Israel to deliver vaccines for around 5 million Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.

The WHO told RFI that it is not in a position to judge whether Israel is responsible for such a delivery, under international law.

The UN organisation has, however, said it would welcome Israel's move to help vaccinate thousands of Palestinians who work inside Israel, as well as around five thousand Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, along with thousands of front-line Palestinian medical workers.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is a member of the national Palestinian medical team dealing with Covid-19. Barghouthi says what Israel has done so far is not enough and that the state of Israel is an occupying power that should assume its responsibilities.

"Israel is prohibiting the Palestinian Authority from working or establishing clinics or activities in 62 percent of the West Bank. This whole area lies under total Israeli military and civil control. So how come Israel claims it is not responsible for the West Bank? Also, the Palestinian Authority does not have control over imports and exports, including the vaccines. This is all in Israeli hands, so Israel is trying to get away from its responsibilities by claiming that the Oslo peace accord says things that it does not actually say."

Israel has so far vaccinated more than half of its citizens.

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