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February 3, 2021 10:19 am

Palestinians Begin Coronavirus Vaccination Campaign

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Empty vials of the second dose of the Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine are pictured at the San Martin hospital, in La Plata, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina January 21, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

Palestinians launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Tuesday, with health workers receiving the first shots after the delivery of doses from Israel and international shipments expected within days.

Medical personnel treating coronavirus patients or working in intensive care units were inoculated at Hugo Chavez hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“It was a wonderful step because it is crucial to protect medical staff who are dealing with COVID-19 patients from zero distance and are at risk of getting the infection,” said Bassil Bawatneh, the hospital’s director.

Israel transferred 2,000 doses of Moderna Inc’s vaccine on Monday and said it had earmarked another 3,000 shots for the Palestinians.

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Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila, kicking off the vaccination program, said that within days her ministry would receive 5,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and 37,000 doses from the COVAX global vaccine-sharing program.

Alkaila said some of the doses would be transferred on Wednesday to the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the PA’s main rival, the Islamist Hamas group.

She estimated it would take several months to complete vaccinations in Palestinian areas.

People over the age of 60 or with chronic illnesses will be the first to be inoculated among the general public, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

The West Bank, where 3.1 million Palestinians live, has reported 101,221 coronavirus cases, with 1,271 deaths. Gaza, with a population of two million, has registered more than 51,000 cases with 523 deaths.

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