UN Reminds Israel Of Moral Obligation As Palestinians Suffer Amid COVID-19
The healthcare sector of battle-scarred Palestinian territories hangs by a thread as it cancels Pfizer consignment.
Gaza and West Bank’s healthcare system remains poor after the decades-long blockade and the people here are torn between the Islamist fighters and Israel’s army. It was only after UAE aid early in January, Palestine’s COVID-19 ward was able to provide oxygen for ventilators.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh canceled the COVID vaccine swap agreement at a joint press conference last Friday hours after Palestine received 90,000 Pfizer vaccines that were too close to their expiry date, from the Israeli government.
The conference held with Minister of Health Mai Alkaila confirmed that initial vaccine doses did not meet agreed-upon specifications.
Minister Alkaila told Reuters: “They told us the expiration date was in July or August, which would allow lots of time for us, but (the expiration) turned out to be in June. That’s not enough time to use them, so we rejected them.”
The agreement came after Israel received huge criticism across the world for vaccinating 85% of its population leaving Gaza and West Bank.
Israel vaccinated the Jewish population in the West Bank and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship along with other Israelis. These Palestinians belonged to the East Jerusalem side.
According to the agreement, the Palestinian Authority would receive a million Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses from Israel this summer in exchange for the same from PA Health Ministry this fall.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said “Israel has signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, and will supply approximately one million doses of Pfizer vaccine that are about to expire”, without specifying the expiry date.
“Israel will receive the same amount of doses of Pfizer in September/October 2021, on behalf of what is destined for the Palestinian Authority,” the Israeli statement read.
However, the Palestinian Authority canceled the agreement once they came across the expiry date which was in contrast to what the Israeli government stated. Earlier, Israeli told the Palestinian Authority that the vaccine expiration date was in July or August. But when the Palestinians received the first 90,000 vaccine doses, they found out that it was only till June.
Palestinian Authority spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said, “After the technical teams of the Ministry of Health examined the first batch of the Pfizer vaccines that were received this evening from Israel, estimated at 90,000 doses, it was found that they do not conform to the specifications contained in the agreement, and accordingly Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh instructed the Minister of Health to cancel the agreement.”
Citing this, Melhem preferred to wait for vaccine doses ordered directly from Pfizer.
The Ineffectiveness of soon-to-expire or expired vaccine doses still being researched. So, the World Health Organization has advised to not throw away any COVID-19 doses yet.
This would have been the first agreement between Israel and Palestine after Naftali Bennett came to power.
However, this was not the earlier case. It was on January 24 that the Israeli Health Minister first said that according to the so-called Oslo agreements, Palestinians need to take care of their own health.
At the same time deprived Palestinians, expect over 60% of vaccines of 5 million population from the World Health Organization’s COVAX program aid because of its poor health and logistics infrastructure.
Palestinians have constantly suffered due to the 1967 occupation and border blockade from both Egypt and Israel.
Pandemic made the situation worse. The occupied state does not have enough PPE kits, ventilators, oxygen, and vaccine doses to look for.
While the United Nations Human Rights stated that under the Geneva convention, it is Israel’s responsibility to provide healthcare access to COVID19 vaccines for Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank, the Israeli have rebuked the statement with OSLO accord.
Even if PA operates the Ministry of Health, they do not have control over borders. According to the “dual-use” policy, Israeli bans medical equipment like PET scanners or radiotherapy equipment. Israel needs to approve all imports to Palestinian land.
Israel paid 40% more on each COVID19 vaccine in order to vaccinate its entire population but the years of blockade left Palestinian’s dependent on foreign aid due to its poor economy and the crippling healthcare system. Palestinians cannot afford high-rate Israel paid.
It was only after vaccinating 90% of the Israeli population that the Israeli government agreed to provide Pfizer Vaccine aid to the Palestinian Authority.
According to Reuters, Palestinian territories have administered 757,974 vaccine doses so far. They have managed to vaccinate only 8.1% of its population in contrast with Israel who vaccinated over 59% of its population with double doses.