After Delays, Israel Starts Vaccinating Palestinian Workers

YERUSHALAYIM -
A Magen David Adom worker gives a COVID vaccine to a Palestinian worker, Monday. (MDA)

After delays, Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country on Monday, more than two months after launching an immunization blitz of its own population.

Palestinian laborers who crossed into Israel at several checkpoints received their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from Magen David Adom paramedics. The vaccination drive orchestrated by COGAT, Israel’s military agency coordinating government operations in Yehudah and Shomron, had been beset by postponements.

There are some 100,000 Palestinian laborers in Israel.

Israel has administered over 8.7 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its population of 9.3 million. Over 3.7 million Israelis — more than 40% — have received two doses of the vaccine. But until Monday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in Yehudah and Shomron and the Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials have said the priority is vaccinating Israel’s own population first, while the Palestinian Authority has said it will obtain its own vaccines through a World Health Organization partnership with humanitarian organizations known as COVAX.

To date, the PA has acquired enough vaccine doses for only 6,000 people in Yehudah and Shomron and the Gaza Strip, which are home to nearly five million Palestinians. It received 2,000 doses from Israel and acquired another 10,000 doses of a Russian-made vaccine. Each is given in two doses.

Israel had also announced plans to share surplus vaccines with far-flung allies in Africa, Europe and Latin America, but the decision was frozen by legal questions. Last Thursday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with leaders of Denmark and Austria and said the three nations would join forces in the fight against COVID-19 with an investment in research and rollout of vaccines.