Israel Health Ministry on Monday, January 11 announced that the country will be ramping up its COVID-19 vaccination drive. Also, Israelis over the age of 55 will now be able to receive the first shot of the vaccine. As per the Our World In Data website, the country has the highest vaccination rate in the world as a total of 1,870,652 Israelis have been inoculated so far.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday that Israel will increase its vaccination target to 170,000 shots a day after the new batch of Pfizer vaccine touched down at Ben Gurion Airport. According to John Hopkins University tally, Israel has a total of 495,063 cases with 3,689 fatalities.
Israel is reported to be paying 50 percent more per dose than the United Kingdom. The country began its mass inoculation on December 20 and has vaccinated over 10.3 percent of its total population. It was recently reported that Netanyahu has called the Pfizer chief 17 times in the last few days. He has even said that the country could be the first to emerge from the pandemic.
While Israel’s inoculation programme is powering ahead, the drive is excluding Palestinians residing in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza as the vaccines are only given to Jewish settlers there. According to The Guardian, Israel transports batches of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deep inside the West Bank, but they are not being distributed to the roughly 2.7 million Palestinians living in the region. The Palestinian Authority, which maintains limited self-rule in the territories, has said that optimistically, the shots could arrive within the next two weeks.
The director-general of the Palestinian health ministry has estimated that the first vaccines would probably arrive in February. And those would be through a WHO-led partnership called COVAX, which has pledged to vaccinate 20 percent of Palestinians. However, as the COVAX vaccines have not yet gained "emergency use", Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of the office at WHO Jerusalem, said it could be "early to mid-2021" before the vaccine was available for distribution in the Palestinian territories.