Israel starts a pilot operation today to vaccinate Palestinian workers, apparently this evening at one of the West Bank crossing points.
On March 7, the country will launch a vast campaign to vaccinate all 120,000 Palestinians legally working in Israel and in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The decision concerns 87,000 Palestinians holding work permits in Israel and 35,000 Palestinians legally working in settlements, mainly in industrial parks. According to estimates, thousands of Palestinians are working illegaly in Israel, but they will not be vaccinated by Israeli authorities.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said Feb. 28 that the vaccination drive had been “approved by the political echelon,” adding that Israel will “conduct a vaccination campaign for Palestinian workers with employment licenses in Israel and in the communities across Judea and Samaria [West Bank].” In a March 3 announcement, COGAT’s office said it will roll out next week the vaccination campaign at checkpoints and industrial zones across the West Bank.
As a first step, 12 vaccination compounds are scheduled to be set up — eight at checkpoints for those employed in Israel and four at settlements for those employed in the West Bank. The vaccination centers will be staffed by Israeli medical teams. COGAT stated that vaccinations would be done on a voluntarily basis, and that Israeli employers were told they cannot force their workers to receive the shots. The employers will be the ones responsible for scheduling appointments for their workers to get vaccinated. Instructions are for the workers to get vaccinated at the end of the work day, when leaving Israeli territory, not in the morning when entering, so as not to delay their arrival to work.
The medical teams will first use the 100,000 Moderna vaccine doses Israel has in surplus. These vaccines are now stocked at a depot belonging to the Israeli giant pharmaceutical Teva near Ben Gurion Airport. Until now, Israel has been reluctant to use these vaccines, since the condition of their storage and administration are different from those of the Pfizer vaccine largely used in the country’s immunization drive. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intended to donate the Moderna vaccine surplus to some 20 countries considered friendly to Israel, and also to the Palestinian Authority (PA). But his plan was halted after a negative legal opinion by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Netanyahu’s authority to take such a decision on his own.