Secretary of State Tony Blinken reportedly requested Israel’s help in transferring COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday that the country will share its vaccine supply with other governments that have asked for assistance, including the Palestinian Authority and Honduras, which announced in 2020 it would move its embassy to Jerusalem.
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Netanyahu’s office said Palestinians will receive several thousand vaccine doses for its medical teams. Honduras, which sent a plane to pick up the vaccines, will receive a similar number, according to Axios, which cited Israeli officials. The vaccines will come from Israel’s supply of 100,000 Moderna doses that the country purchased but has not yet used.
“In light of the successful vaccination campaign in Israel and its being the global leader in vaccinating populations, Israel has received many requests from countries for assistance in supplying vaccines,” Netanyahu’s media adviser said in a statement to the Washington Examiner. “Over the past month, a limited quantity of unused vaccines was accumulated; therefore, it has been decided to assist Palestinian Authority medical teams and several of the countries that contacted Israel with a symbolic quantity of vaccines.”
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki expressed concerns during a Zoom speech for the United Nations Human Rights Council that Israel had reportedly refused to give vaccines to Palestinians or allow vaccine shipments from abroad to enter the West Bank and Gaza. Israel, however, denied that claim.
Matthias Kennes, a medical referent for Doctors Without Borders in the West Bank, said the disparity of vaccines available between Israel and the West Bank has been stark, and only a few thousand shots have been made available to the West Bank. Someone is 60 times more likely to receive a vaccination in Israel than in an area occupied by Palestine, he said.
In recent weeks, Israel stepped up its assistance to Palestinians on COVID-19, which is in line with the Biden administration’s goals of building a better relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, starting with combating the pandemic.
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Israel has had more than 740,000 coronavirus cases and more than 5,000 deaths.
So far, more than 4.2 million Israelis have received the first dose of the vaccine, and 2.8 million have received both doses.
The State Department did not immediately respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.