by Ihab Rimawi

Updated from 12/12/18 Israel Restricts Vaccine Imports to Palestine

Lara Hamdan had no idea, when she went to the health services center in Ramallah, to vaccinate her one-year-old daughter, that the vaccination was not available and that she had to wait until Israeli authorities allow the vaccines to enter Palestine before her daughter can be vaccinated.

Hamdan was concerned that, if her daughter does not get the right vaccination for children on time, her health might be at risk.

Israel has halted admission of all vaccinations to the Palestinian territories, and has been holding them at its ports for over three months, claiming that a 1986 law allows the import of the vaccines from only 10 countries. However, the Palestinian Ministry of Health has been importing vaccines, ever since it was established in 1995, from the countries that were certified by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the vaccines were brought to Palestine by UNICEF.

Director general of the public health department, in the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Yasser Bouzieh, warned that barring or delaying the entry of vaccines will lead to the outbreak of many diseases which could lead to an epidemic, and will affect not only Palestine but the neighboring countries, and the region as a whole.

He said that many diseases have been eradicated in Palestine, due to the vaccination, and, by preventing them from reaching Palestine, it means that diseases such as polio, of which the last case discovered was in 1988, along with many other serious diseases such as chicken pox and measles. WHO had previously said that Palestine was free of these diseases, but it is now feared that they will come back to threaten the lives of the children.

Bouzieh said that the vaccination for tuberculosis will disappear from the stores of the Ministry of Health by the end of this month, and vaccine for pertussis, commonly known as “whooping cough”, has been unavailable for more than a month, as a result of the Israeli decision. Stockpiles of other vaccinations are also running out.

Undersecretary of the Health Ministry, Assad Ramlawi, wondered about the timing of the Israeli decision, particularly since this law has been in place for 32 years. “So, why now?” he asks.

He said that UNICEF has been bringing the vaccines to Palestine since 1995, and that they were all certified by WHO. He went on to say that the 10 countries which Israel allows the vaccines to be imported from may not be certified by WHO and, therefore, the ministry will not be able to get the vaccines from these countries.

Ramlawi further stated, according to WAFA, that efforts by UNICEF and WHO, to get Israel to change its decision, have not yielded any results thus far, expressing hope that pressure on Israel, at the United Nations, may persuade authorities to change their decision and allow the vaccines to reach Palestine before it is too late.

(edited for the IMEMC by c h r i s @ i m e m c . o r g)

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