Wednesday 21 April 2021

Israel rebuffs WHO vaccine request for Palestinian medics, amid outcry over disparity

Citing shortages, Israel declines plea to make jabs available for Palestinian frontline workers to avert health disaster during the month-long wait for vaccines.

Israel has refused a request from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to immediately make Covid-19 vaccines available to Palestinian medical workers to avert a health disaster, claiming shortages of the jabs for their own citizens, reported by The Independent.


The refusal comes amid growing criticism from rights groups of the massive discrepancy between the vaccine rollout in Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza, given Israel’s legal obligations as an occupying entity.


Israel has broken global records for the speediness of its inoculation programme, which started on 20 December and up to Friday has seen 1.7 million Israelis – or over 18 percent of the total population – vaccinated.


While Israel has provided vaccines for Palestinians living in east Al-Quds (Jerusalem), by contrast no citizen or medic has received jabs among the nearly 5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, where the battered and impoverished healthcare systems are struggling to cope with the soaring caseload.


Citing the Fourth Geneva Convention, rights groups including Amnesty have accused Israel of “institutionalised discrimination” and of ignoring its international obligations to immediately ensure Covid-19 vaccines are equally and fairly distributed to Palestinians living under occupation.


Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the WHO’s mission to the Palestinians, told The Independent the UN body had requested that Israel help provide Covid-19 jabs to cover Palestininan health workers; nearly 8,000 Palestinian medics have reportedly been infected by the virus, impacting their coronavirus response.


He said that Israel had declined the request for now, citing issues with shortages for their own population.


Health officials within the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority (PA) told The Independent they had lodged a similar request, asking Israel to sell them 10,000 jabs for their medics in order to avert a health disaster during the month-long wait for vaccines from the WHO’s Covax programme and vaccine companies.


More than 146,000 Palestinians have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 1,550 have died. On 31 December, 15 Covid-related deaths were reported in Gaza, the highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic, according to the WHO.  

Meanwhile, there have been more than 470,000 cases recorded in Israel, with over 3,500 deaths.

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