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Covid-19 vaccine: Gaza to receive first batch of Russian-made Sputnik V

Israel had admitted to delaying Gaza's vaccine delivery for political reasons
A medical worker inside Gaza holds up swabs collected of potential covid-19 patients (AFP)

The besieged Gaza Strip is scheduled to receive its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday, after delivery had been delayed by Israel. 

One thousand Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines will be transferred via the Beitunia crossing between the occupied West Bank through Israel to the Gaza's Erez crossing.

The vaccines, donated by Russia, will be given to health workers inside the besieged territory. 

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Earlier this week, Israel admitted to delaying the transfer of the vaccine for political reasons. 

Cogat, the military office in charge of Israeli affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, told AFP that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had requested to transfer 1,000 vaccine doses to Gaza, but that "this request is waiting for a political decision".

Citing Israeli sources, AFP reported that allowing the transfer from the West Bank to Gaza was not a simple administrative measure under the purview of Cogat, but rather a political decision possibly linked to talks between Israel and Hamas, the political group de facto governing the Gaza Strip since 2007.

The PA also accused Israel of blocking the vaccine delivery from the West Bank after it requested the transfer to Gaza. 

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said Israel bore "full responsibility" for blocking the shipment.

"Today, 2,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine were transferred to enter the Gaza Strip, but the occupation authorities prevented their entry," Kaila said in a statement on Monday. 

"These doses were intended for medical staff working in intensive care rooms designated for Covid-19 patients, and staff working in emergency departments."

Only half of the 2,000 doses are reportedly to be transferred to Gaza on Wednesday.

Delayed deliveries 

The PA began its first vaccinations - administered to frontline healthcare workers - at the start of the month with an initial procurement of 10,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, as well as Moderna doses supplied by Israel.

But rollout of the vaccine in the West Bank was delayed due to holdups in deliveries.  

However, the PA which has limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, said it will share its limited vaccine supply with the coastal enclave.

Gaza has reported more than 53,000 cases and at least 537 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Israel, which is carrying out one of the world's fastest vaccination campaigns per capita, has faced international criticism for not sharing its vaccination supplies with Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Israeli-blockaded Gaza. 

Amid the criticism, earlier this month Israel sent the PA 5,000 doses to be administered in the occupied West Bank, where nearly 3 million Palestinians reside. 

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