Covid jabs meant for health workers ended up in the arms of Palestinian VIPs and footballers, officials admit

Senior Palestinian politicians, their bodyguards and the national football team received Covid jabs meant for healthcare workers, the Palestinian Authority (PA) said. It also gave the Jordanian royal court another 200 doses.

In all, the PA admitted on Tuesday it gave some 10 percent of 12,000 Covid vaccines to a coterie of government ministers, members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive members, security personnel and soccer players as well as fulfilling a request from Amman for doses.

But it said the other 90 percent went to health workers treating Covid-19 patients in intensive care units and emergency departments and to other health ministry workers.

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has long faced accusations of nepotism and cronyism, and the diversion of the vaccines has been criticized by groups who are pushing for greater transparency and fighting corruption in the territories administered by the Authority.

Giving priority to personal interests at the expense of the public good would lead to greater “instability and turmoil,” said AMAN, a network pushing for transparency.

The health ministry said the PA officials who received the diverted doses were “in direct contact with the president and the prime minister” and the football team was vaccinated because the players needed vaccination certificates to be able to travel to play in an international game.

PA officials did not detail which type of Covid-19 vaccines were diverted to the officials.

In a December poll, 86 percent of Palestinians surveyed said they viewed PA institutions as corrupt.

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The World Health Organization has expressed concern about the vaccine inequity between the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, which is leading one of the world’s most successful vaccination campaigns. To date, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, home to a combined 5.2 million Palestinians, have received donations of about 34,700 vaccine doses from Israel and Russia, as well as 20,000 from the United Arab Emirates to Gaza.

On Monday, the PA started vaccinations of health workers in the occupied West Bank after receiving 2,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine from Israel, and they have promised delivery of another 3,000 vaccines.

On Sunday Israel confirmed that it will administer Covid-19 vaccinations to Palestinians in the West Bank who have permits to work in Jewish settlements in the occupied territory and inside Israel. The PA had reached an agreement with Israel for it to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinian laborers.

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The PA is expecting some two million doses ordered from various manufacturers, in addition to doses from the UN-backed Covax programme, set up to help less-wealthy nations procure vaccines, beginning with an initial 240,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and 37,440 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech.

In January, Palestine became the first country in the Middle East to register the Sputnik V vaccine and an initial delivery of 10,000 doses arrived there last month.

In the past year, Palestine has reported more than 55,000 cases of coronavirus and registered 553 deaths.

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