Gaza received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday after Israel approved the transfer through its border with the Hamas Islamist-run territory, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.
Gaza, where 2 million people live, has reported more than 53,000 coronavirus cases and 538 deaths.
The shipment, sent by the Palestinian Authority included 2,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, enough to inoculate 1,000 people in a two-shot regimen.
A Gaza health ministry official said doses of the vaccine will be used to vaccinate patients who had organ transplants and those who suffer kidney failure.
The official added that “Medical personnel will not be vaccinated this time as the shipment is not enough.”
Shipment of the vaccine, via Israel, to Gaza had drawn criticism from right-wing Israeli politicians.
They had called on their government to make the transfer conditional on the release of two Israeli civilians believed held captive by the militant group and the return of the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war.
The delay highlights the challenges Palestinians face inoculating citizens across the West Bank and Gaza – two geographically-divided areas which are home to 5.2 million Palestinians.
Israel controls all entry and exit points to the West Bank and most of the coastal and land boundaries of the Gaza Strip, an enclave that Israeli troops and settlers left in 2005.