After delays, Israel starts vaccinating Palestinian workers

JERUSALEM (AP) — After delays, Israel started vaccinating Palestinians who work inside the country and its West Bank settlements yesterday, more than two months after launching an immunisation blitz of its own population.

Palestinian labourers who crossed into Israel at several West Bank 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 the West Bank, had been beset by postponements.

Some 100,000 Palestinian labourers from the West Bank work in Israel and its settlements, which are widely seen internationally as illegal and an obstacle to peace.

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 per cent — have received two doses of the vaccine.

But until yesterday, Israel had provided few vaccines for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a move that has underscored global disparities and drawn international criticism.

Human rights groups and many Palestinians said that as an occupying power, Israel is responsible for providing vaccines to the Palestinians.

Israel said that under interim peace accords reached in the 1990s, it does not have any such obligation.

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 (WHO) partnership with humanitarian organisations known as COVAX.