Israel stops entry of Covid-19 vaccine into blockaded Gaza

Jerusalem/Gaza, Feb 15 (efe-epa).- Israel on Monday blocked the entry of the first batch of Covid-19 vaccines to the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian National Authority said.

“The Israeli occupation authorities today prevented entry of coronavirus vaccines” to the enclave, the first lot of 2,000-doses out of 10,000 that Palestinian authorities have been allocated from Russia, the Palestinian health ministry said in a statement.

Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila criticized the move as “arbitrary” and for being “contrary to all international norms, laws and agreements”.

Gaza was initially scheduled to receive the first batch of the Russian Sputnik vaccine on Sunday, which was to be administered to the healthcare workers.

Israeli official sources told Efe that the government has not taken a final decision on whether or not to allow the entry of the vaccines.

Members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense parliamentary committee were divided during debates on whether or not to let the vaccines in, with some members calling for them to be permitted entry on the condition that two captured Israeli civilians are released and the bodies of two soldiers who died during the 2014 War be returned.

The West Bank-based PNA on 4 February received 10,000 doses of the Russian vaccine and sent the first batch to the enclave of two million inhabitants, which has been under an Israeli blockade since 2007.

So far, the PNA – that has received 2,000 doses from Israel as well as the Russian donated shots – has begun to immunize healthcare workers in the West Bank ahead of a campaign to inoculate its three million inhabitants.

A massive vaccination campaign, initially scheduled to start in mid-February, will be postponed after a new delay in delivery, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.

The Palestinian authorities are waiting for 37,000 free doses through the Word Heath Organization’s COVAX mechanism, which should be transferred within the next two weeks.

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