Hamas-ruled Gaza launches coronavirus vaccination drive

The Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has begun its coronavirus vaccination drive following the arrival of the first vaccines to the blockaded coastal area

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

The shortage of vaccines in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank stands in stark contrast to Israel, which is on pace to immunize 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.

U.N. 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 recognized 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.

Gaza has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized control of the area in 2007 from Abbas' forces. Al-Qedra, the Health Ministry spokesman, 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.