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NPR Coronavirus Updates

Israeli Health Officials To Government: Vaccinate All Palestinians


Israel is expanding COVID-19 vaccinations for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. There's been a spike in infections there, and the Biden administration has asked Israel to help. Here's NPR's Daniel Estrin reporting from the West Bank.


DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: At a military checkpoint, Israeli medics vaccinate hundreds of Palestinians but only special categories of people, like relatives of Jerusalem residents. Other Palestinians are turned away. Najib Amer was lucky to get the shot through connections with work.

NAJIB AMER: No, I'm not feeling good, actually, because my part of my family - they should have this vaccine. But unfortunately, I can't provide to them.

ESTRIN: Israel leads the world in per-capita vaccinations. Half of its population has already received one shot of the vaccine. But in the West Bank, only a few thousand Palestinians have gotten vaccinated, with doses donated by Russia and Israel. Palestinian officials ordered shipments of vaccines, but they've been delayed by suppliers. Israel has faced international calls to help, including a request from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. And it's doing so gradually.

ITAMAR GROTTO: We are starting give them more and more vaccines. This is important objective from a public health point of view.

ESTRIN: Outgoing deputy director general of Israel's health ministry, Itamar Grotto, says he's urged Israeli leaders to help vaccinate all Palestinians. For now, Israel has agreed to vaccinate all Palestinian laborers who enter Israel every day. He expects Israel to vaccinate even more Palestinians in the future. But right now in the West Bank, there's a new lockdown because hospitalizations and infections are at record highs.

ALAA MURRAR: If there were vaccines, sure, we will not need to go to hospital and what happened with my sister and her son.

ESTRIN: Alaa Murrar's sister was sick with COVID-19 last week and gave birth at a West Bank hospital. The COVID ward was overburdened. The mother felt she didn't get proper care. And the baby boy died.

MURRAR: Nothing will help us without vaccine here in Palestine.

ESTRIN: Daniel Estrin, NPR News, the West Bank. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.