Amir Ohana told Israeli prison officials to hold off administering jabs to Palestinian inmates until further notice, and provide the vaccine only to prison staff. The prisoners will get their shots later, “in accordance with the progress of vaccinating the general public,” according to the Saturday statement by the office of the minister.
The order came after a high-ranking Palestinian official dealing with prisoner affairs, Qadri Abu Bakr, announced that voluntary vaccination of those held in Israeli prisons will kick off “in the coming days.”
On Sunday, Physicians for Human Rights decried the move by the Israeli authorities as “politically motivated” and called for the transfer of responsibility for the wellbeing of Palestinian inmates to “a body whose first priority is health.”
“The minister’s directive contradicts the vaccination guidelines that the Health Ministry issued,” the group pointed out, adding that the inmates should be given “high priority for vaccinations” due to high risk of disease transmission.
Another NGO, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, said that by postponing the vaccination “Israel is pursuing its racist policies and it has turned the pandemic into a tool of oppression and abuse against Palestinian prisoners.”
The Israeli Health Ministry put prisoners into the second priority group to get the jabs together with chronically ill patients and first responders, Haaretz paper reported. Overcrowding and poor conditions at Israeli prisons have led to around 140 out of some 4,400 Palestinian inmates being diagnosed with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to Palestinian Wafa news agency.
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