I came to Hebron with an MSF team specifically to help with the COVID-19 response. In December last year, when the second wave of the pandemic hit the West Bank, the Dura hospital where we are supporting medical assistance was full of COVID-19 patients. We had mostly elderly people, many with underlying conditions such as diabetes or other chronic diseases. Patients died. Sick COVID-19 patients have died in hospitals around the world, but these patients died on my watch, and that pains me.
In eight of the 11 West Bank governorates, COVID-19 case numbers are on the rise again. In Hebron, this increase has been slow and steady for the past four weeks. I do not want to see any more patients dying of hypoxia. The vaccine is my hope to avoid this. It is also a source of despair.
A few kilometers away in Israel all the vulnerable groups have been vaccinated and they are planning to move onto vaccinating healthy adults and youths, who are less vulnerable, especially to severe complications. Here in the West Bank there are around 10,000 doses, which is enough for 5,000 people to be vaccinated. In the hospital where I work, staff have been offered the vaccine, but the available doses do not come close to covering the health care workers, let alone the elderly and people with medical conditions that make them susceptible to dying of COVID-19.
If asked why vulnerable people cannot be vaccinated in Palestine, I do not know how to answer. It is inexplicable and unbelievable. Worse than that—it is unjust and cruel.