Palestinian Authority under fire for VIP vaccines

Palestinian human rights and civil society groups say the PA’s COVID vaccination programme lacks transparency

A Palestinian health worker is vaccinated against COVID-19 in Bethlehem, 3  February 2021

Aljazeera reports:

The Palestinian Authority has confirmed that it diverted some COVID-19 vaccination doses meant for medical workers to VIPs, as critics have claimed, but said this involved a small fraction of inoculations.

A PA health ministry statement on Tuesday said 10 percent of the 12,000 doses it received were given to the Palestinian national football team, government ministers, presidential guards and members of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee. Another 200 doses went to the Jordanian royal court, after a request from Amman.

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

The ministry statement followed criticism from several Palestinian human rights and civil society groups, who urged an investigation into the vaccination programme, saying it was not transparent.  “The incoming information and testimonies point to ongoing cases where vaccines are obtained by several parties, in disregard of the principle of priority in distribution,” the groups said in a joint statement on Monday.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has long faced accusations of nepotism and cronyism. In a December poll, 86 percent of Palestinians surveyed said they viewed PA institutions as corrupt.

But, defending its vaccination programme, the health ministry said the ministers and security officials who received vaccines were “in direct contact with the president and the prime minister”. It also said some of those who received vaccines were election officials while the football team was vaccinated because the players needed vaccination certificates to be able to travel “to represent Palestine in a match”.

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