Palestinian Authority transferred 2,000 Sputnik V vaccines to Hamas-ruled Gaza. A wider campaign could be further off as health officials await larger shipments.

Palestinian Health Ministry official Yahya Aabed, receives a Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, in Gaza, Monday, Feb 22, 2021.
Palestinian Health Ministry official Yahya Aabed, receives a Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, in Gaza, Monday, Feb 22, 2021. (AP)

Gaza has begun its coronavirus vaccination drive following the arrival of the first vaccines to the blockaded coastal area.

Former health ministers and several medical workers were inoculated with Russia’s Sputnik V jabs in front of dozens of cameras. 

More medical workers and patients with chronic diseases are to start receiving injections on Tuesday.

The inoculation drive “will result in more immunity among the people and further curb the spread of the pandemic,” said Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al Qedra.

The area has received just 22,000 doses of vaccines, a tiny fraction of what is needed to immunize the strip's 2 million people, including some 1.4 million people over age 18.

The shortage of vaccines in both Gaza and the West Bank stands in stark contrast to Israel, which is on pace to immunise almost all of its adult population in the coming weeks.

Already, roughly one-third of Israel's 9.3 million people have received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. 

The disparity has drawn attention to the worldwide inequity in vaccine distribution between rich and poor nations.

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Concerns over disparities

UN officials and human rights groups have voiced concerns over the disparities and said that Israel, as an occupying power, has an obligation to help the Palestinians. 

Israel says that under interim peace accords, the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority is responsible. Israel has vaccinated its own Arab population.

The Palestinian Authority has struggled to secure vaccines, obtaining just 2,000 doses from Israel for West Bank medical workers and an additional 10,000 doses from Russia. Last week, it transferred 2,000 of the Russian vaccines to Gaza.

On Sunday, a rival of President Mahmoud Abbas organised a shipment of 20,000 Russian vaccines to Gaza from the United Arab Emirates.

Gaza has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized control of the area in 2007 from Abbas' forces. 

Qedra, the Health Ministry spokesperson, said he expected more vaccines to arrive in Gaza in the coming days.

Gaza’s health authorities have reported more than 54,000 coronavirus infections and 543 deaths.

READ MORE: Israel begrudgingly approves transfer of 1,000 vaccines to Gaza

Source: AP