Palestinian Minister of Health Mai Alkaila announced on Tuesday, September 14, that measures taken by the Israeli occupation at two military crossings in the West Bank and Gaza led to the damage of a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines that had been sent the previous Wednesday, September 8, to Gaza from the ministry’s warehouses in Ramallah.
The Minister said that the occupation authorities obstructed a shipment containing some 50,000 doses of the Sputnik Light vaccine sent from Ramallah to Gaza. The vaccines were unloaded from the truck transporting them for an hour at the Beitunia crossing checkpoint in Ramallah and subsequently for an additional two hours at the Kerem Shalom commercial border crossing with Gaza. These unloadings resulted in damage to the vaccines which needed to be maintained under specific temperatures for their preservation and usability.
The minister added that the specially refrigerated truck transporting the vaccines reached the Beitunia checkpoint last Wednesday on its way to deliver the vaccines to Kerem Shalom. The Israeli soldiers at the Beitunia checkpoint ordered that the vaccines be unloaded and kept them outside the truck for an hour, exhibiting total indifference to the need for storing the vaccines at minus 30 degrees Celsius.
The Palestinian Minister of Health noted that after the truck transporting the vaccines finally reached the Israeli crossing with Gaza, soldiers manning this crossing once again ordered that the truck be unloaded and kept the perishable cargo outside the truck for another two hours. The minister said that $675,000 worth of vaccines were destroyed as a result of this callous indifference towards the life-saving cargo that was due to reach its expiration date only at the end of November.
Minister Alkaila said that the ministry has called upon various human rights organizations to intervene immediately to prevent the occupation authorities from undermining the efficacy of future vaccine shipments that will be sent to the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza Strip.
“We have started immediate measures in coordination with the Civil Affairs Authority and the World Health Organization to send another batch of vaccines to our people in the Gaza Strip,” she said. According to Palestinian sources, over 1.2 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with over half a million getting the second dose. The West Bank has recorded a vaccination rate of over 50%, while only 28% of Gaza Strip residents have been vaccinated.