Gaza launches vaccination drive amid low turnout

The Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, in cooperation with the World Health Organization and UNRWA, launched the first phase of coronavirus vaccination for the residents of the Gaza Strip after receiving 22,000 doses of vaccines from Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

Walking past a COVID-19 vaccination mural painting , Gaza City, 31 December 2020

Ahmad Abu Amer reports in Al-Monitor:

The first phase of the coronavirus vaccination campaign kicked off in the Gaza Strip on February 22. Two shipments of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine arrived — the first donated by Russia to the Palestinian Authority (PA), and the second by the United Arab Emirates to the Gaza Strip directly.

The campaign began with the vaccination of 15 officials from the Ministry of Health and some medical personnel. The process was heavily covered by various media outlets, with the aim of encouraging the population to get vaccinated. Only about 10,000 persons registered to receive the vaccine in the first phase, out of 1.2 million citizens in the Gaza Strip who need it.

Overall, 22,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccines reached the Gaza Strip, sufficient for 11,000 citizens, at the rate of two separate doses for each citizen. Spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip Ashraf Al-Qudra told Al-Monitor that none of the 15 first recipients, including himself, showed any side effects after getting their shots.

Qudra explained that 1.2 million residents in the Gaza Strip are eligible to receive the vaccine as they are over the age of 18, according to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) protocol regarding the coronavirus vaccination. “Priority now is for the medical personnel, which includes around 16,000 persons in hospitals and health centers in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “Around 150,000 persons with [chronic] diseases in the Gaza Strip also need the vaccine.”

He pointed out that the Ministry of Health, in cooperation with the UNRWA, began vaccinating at two health centers in the south of Gaza and in Gaza City.  Abdel Nasser Soboh, the director of the WHO’s office in the Gaza Strip, told Al-Monitor on the sidelines of the launch of the vaccination campaign that the PA will receive in the coming days more than 37,000 new doses of vaccines. “The Gaza Strip will be getting 11,200 doses,” he said.

The surge in the number of coronavirus infections in recent months put the health system in the Gaza Strip under great pressure, bringing it to the verge of collapse.

Government authorities rushed to impose stringent preventive measures, including curfews and the closure of public places such as restaurants, wedding halls, sports clubs and others.

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