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Palestinian Authority ups COVID-19 vaccination drive

The PA has begun administering doses obtained through the World Health Organization and plans to receive more soon.
An elderly Palestinian man receives a shot of the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in the West Bank city of Nablus on March 22, 2021. - Palestinian authorities started vaccinating the elderly and those with chronic illness. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP via Getty Images)

The Palestinian Authority (PA) greatly increased its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Sunday after receiving thousands of doses via the World Health Organization.

The Palestinian Health Ministry began administering its vaccine doses obtained through the World Health Organization’s COVAX program to health workers and the elderly in the West Bank and Gaza, The Associated Press reported.

COVAX is an initiative to provide less-wealthy countries with vaccines against the coronavirus. Last week, the PA received more than 60,000 doses through the program.

The shipment contained both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines. The PA plans to obtain enough doses through COVAX to vaccinate 1 million people, which would be 20% of its population, according to the PA’s WAFA News Agency

The AstraZeneca vaccine had a blood clot scare in Europe recently, though European Union scientists said this week that such a complication is rare and outweighed by the benefits of the vaccine. 

Israel has one of the most successful vaccine processes in the world, and most of the population has already received at least one dose so far. The Palestinian territories have lagged far behind Israel, however. The Israeli government says the PA is responsible for vaccinating Palestinians under the Oslo Accord. Rights groups contend that Israel, as the occupying power, must vaccinate all people in the Palestinian territories.

The PA began administering the vaccine in February after receiving 5,000 doses from Israel. Israel also started giving earlier in March the vaccine to Palestinian employees who work in Israel.

Some Palestinian activists accused the PA this month of administering doses based on personal relations and not medical needs.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received his first dose of the vaccine on Saturday.

The virus is continuing to spread in the Palestinian territories in the meantime. The Health Ministry reported 2,338 new cases and 31 deaths on Monday. Around 5 million people live in the West Bank and Gaza.

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