Palestinians approve Russian COVID-19 vaccine for use in self-rule areas

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MOSCOW/RAMALLAH, West Bank, Jan 11 (Reuters) – The health ministry of the Palestinian Authority has approved the main Russian vaccine against COVID-19, known as Sputnik V, for use in Palestinian self-ruled territory, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said on Monday.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila confirmed that her ministry had granted “emergency approval” for the Russian vaccine to be administered in areas under limited Palestinian self-rule.

The first shipment of the Russian shot is expected to arrive next month, with all deliveries expected in the first quarter of this year, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad.

The RDIF did not disclose how many doses would be shipped to the Palestinian Authority – which governs in parts of the West Bank under interim peace deals with Israel – but said the supplies would be facilitated by manufacturing partners in India, China, South Korea and elsewhere.

It also did not reveal the financial arrangements of the export deal but has said previously that Sputnik V would be priced at less than $20 per dose. The price includes the first shot and the booster, which is injected 21 days later.

Asked if Israel would permit the Palestinians to import the vaccines, Deputy Israeli Health Minister Yoav Kisch told Army Radio: “Anything to do with Palestinian Authority public health is taken care of by them, (so) I think they have that freedom.”

The Palestinian Authority said on Sunday it expected to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses from British drugmaker AstraZeneca in March, and accused Israel of shirking a duty to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory.

While Israel has become the world leader in vaccinations per capita, Palestinians in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip – where Hamas Islamists rule – have yet to obtain their first supplies.

Outside Russia, where authorities say over a million people have now been inoculated with Sputnik V, the vaccine has also been approved for emergency use by local regulators in Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia and Serbia, RDIF has said.

Russian authorities have said that any Sputnik V export deals would involve only doses produced by such manufacturing partners abroad, with Russian-made vaccines primarily used to meet domestic needs.

Hence Russia’s first major international shipment of vaccine doses – 300,000 that left Moscow for Argentina last month – kindled an outcry at home as critics questioned why exports were being prioritised over domestic requirements.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova and Vladimir Soldatkin in MOSCOW, Ali Sawafta in RAMALLAH Writing by Polina Ivanova Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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