Palestinians get 100,000 Chinese Covid vaccine doses

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Monday's delivery was the largest single batch of coronavirus vaccines yet to reach the Palestinian territories

The Palestinian Authority received 100,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm jab on Monday, the largest single batch of coronavirus vaccines yet to reach the Palestinian territories.

The PA's vaccination campaign was launched this month after the delivery of thousands of vaccines through the Covax programme which is meant to ensure an equitable access to Covid-19 jabs.

The Palestinian vaccine rollout has lagged well behind that of Israel, which has faced criticism for excluding most Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip from its world-beating vaccination drive.

The latest jabs "represent a commitment to the promise China made to put vaccines at the service of the world," Chinese ambassador to the PA, Guo Wei, told reporters in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Palestinian health minister Mai al-Kaila said the delivery would "greatly contribute to accelerating the community vaccination campaign," as the number of infections in the West Bank continues to rise.

The PA announced it had started vaccinating the over-75s and some medical patients on March 21 after receiving 60,000 vaccine doses through Covax.

More than 20,000 of those doses have been transferred to Gaza, which Israel has blockaded since Hamas Islamists seized the coastal strip in 2007.

An additional 60,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine have been delivered to Gaza from the United Arab Emirates, shipments brokered by a former top PA official currently exiled in Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Dahlan.

Covax -- which is jointly led by the public-private alliance Gavi, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) -- has also pledged doses to vaccinate another million Palestinians.

Israel has fully innoculated more than half its roughly 9.3 million people.

Israel has also vaccinated 105,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel or in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Rights groups have called on Israel, as the occupying power, to offer vaccines to all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel says the PA is responsible for health services across the Palestinian territories.

Since the start of the pandemic, the West Bank has recorded almost 175,000 coronavirus cases and 1,995 deaths, while 604 people have died in Gaza, out of 63,742 infections.