A million doses of the Russian Sputnik coronavirus vaccine were delivered to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, a donation from the United Arab Emirates to the Palestinian enclave facing an increase in contamination by the Omicron variant.
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The batch of vaccines, the largest sent to the Palestinian territory since the start of the pandemic, was transported through the Rafah crossing point between Egypt and Gaza before being stored in warehouses of the Ministry of Health of the Hamas, the Islamist movement in power in the Palestinian territory.
The delivery comes as the enclave, under Israeli blockade for 15 years, is facing the spread of the Omicron variant and a rise in infected people, noted Majdi Dahir, director of preventive medicine at the Ministry of Health.
The doses arriving on Wednesday will be intended primarily for schoolchildren over 12, said at a press conference in Rafah an official from the Ministry of Health, Mahmoud Hammad.
Hammad said the delivery was facilitated by the intervention of Mohammed Dahlan, a arch-rival of Palestinian Authority President and Fatah party leader Mahmoud Abbas. Originally from the Gaza Strip, Mr Dahlan has lived in the Emirates for many years.
Last March, Mr. Dahlane, ex-chief of the Palestinian forces in Gaza who became an adviser to the Emirati crown prince, had already claimed the sending of tens of thousands of doses of vaccines to the enclave undermined by wars and poverty.
The health authorities of the territory of 2.3 million inhabitants have officially identified 197,000 people infected since the start of the pandemic, of which some 1,750 have died. They do not indicate how many patients are infected with the Omicron variant precisely.
With Wednesday’s batch, about 2.9 million doses were delivered to Gaza in total, but only 578,665 residents received two doses of the vaccine, according to data from local authorities.