Israel will make thousands of Palestinian workers working in Israel and the occupied West Bank eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Israeli government’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
COGAT officials told Reuters on Sunday that Palestinian medical teams would be installed near checkpoints that separate the West Bank from Israeli territory, where eligible Palestinians can receive the COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna.
The Red Cross welcomed the initiative and told Reuters in a statement that more must be done to improve access to vaccines in the Palestinian territories. Israel maintains strict control of the border between the Israeli territories, Gaza and the West Bank, and has only allowed roughly 32,000 vaccines to enter the two Palestinian territories, which are home to more than 5.2 million people combined.
“The Palestinian population remains, for the most part, unprotected from COVID-19, and we would be happy to see more initiatives of this type. We would like to see full and equitable access to vaccines for all Israelis and Palestinians, ”said a Red Cross official.
That disparity has led to widespread criticism of Israel, which has otherwise received praise for the pace of its vaccination efforts. Human rights groups have argued that Israel is responsible for providing more vaccines in the occupied territories under its obligations under the Geneva Convention.
Palestinian officials in the West Bank issued new lockdown measures this weekend as the territory faces a surge in COVID-19 infections as Israeli officials continue to vaccinate the country’s largest population.