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Palestinian Covid vaccine efforts thwarted by Israel.

As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to overwhelm healthcare systems around the globe, a beacon of light presented itself in the form of the Covid-19 vaccine.

As nations hasten their efforts to vaccinate their populations in the hope of decreasing the toll that the Covid-19 virus has had socially and economically- the current country with the highest vaccination rate per capita is Israel- with Our World in Data reporting a cumulative Covid vaccine dose of 79 per 100 population- with more than 3.67 million Israelis having received the BiotechN-Pfizer mRna vaccine.

This is in stark contrast to the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza, where Israeli occupation authorities have prevented vaccines from entering the occupied territories.

2000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine (Russia’s viral-two-vector vaccine) were intended for ICU staff and frontline healthcare workers, particularly those in emergency departments faced daily with high risk Covid interactions as reported by The Guardian.

Getting vaccines to Gaza ( or any other medical equipment or aid) is logistically almost impossible by the air, land, and naval blockade imposed on the area by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

The countries most affected during this pandemic are those with minimal economic resources and already strained health infrastructure- Gaza’s healthcare system is in shambles.

Apart from the vaccine, medical equipment, personal protective equipment and building material are amongst the few basic building blocks of a healthcare system that are currently prevented by the blockade.

Palestine has reported 170,527 COVID-19 cases and 1,948 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic last March- with the continuing siege only intensifying Palestines Covid- 19 crisis.

Various countries Law of War Manuals afford medical equipment and material the same respect and protection that safeguard medical personnel during times of conflict.  Israel’s unethical behaviour comes as no surprise- they have been known to intentionally target clearly marked medical personnel in the field, contravening the Geneva convention.

This is with Article 24 of the 1949 Geneva convention clearly stating:

“Medical personnel (exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport or treatment of the wounded or sick, or in the prevention of disease, staff exclusively engaged in the administration of medical units and establishments) shall be respected and protected in all circumstances.”

With Israel already in the firing line, after a historic departure from the ICC to investigate Israel for war crimes in the occupied territories- the inequities in healthcare quality and access between two different populations is strikingly reminiscent of the apartheid regime.

While Israel continues to avoid its moral, legal and ethical responsibilities to a people they have occupied, increasing international pressure is the only glimmer of hope.

“Ayesha Moola is a Medical Doctor in her second year of internship at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Passionate about the inequities faced in healthcare as well as struggles for justice globally, her writing covers these themes.”