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Minister orders prisons: Don’t start vaccinating Palestinian inmates yet

Amir Ohana says prisoners will be inoculated when more Israelis have been vaccinated, after Palestinian official claims they’ll be receiving shots in coming days

Illustrative: Palestinian prisoners stand in a cell, pending their release from Ketziot prison in southern Israel, on October 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit/File)
Illustrative: Palestinian prisoners stand in a cell, pending their release from Ketziot prison in southern Israel, on October 1, 2007. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit/File)

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on Saturday instructed prison officials not to begin vaccinating Palestinian inmates against COVID-19 until further notice, after a Palestinian official said security prisoners were expected to soon begin getting shots.

A statement from Ohana’s office said he’d ordered the Israel Prisons Service to only vaccinate prison staff at this stage and that security prisoners shouldn’t be given vaccines without permission. The prisoners will be vaccinated “in accordance with the progress of vaccinating the general public,” the statement said.

Ohana, a member of the ruling Likud party, issued the statement after Qadri Abu Bakr, the chairman of the PLO’s Prisoners Affairs Commission, said the prisons service had told Palestinian prisoners that they would start being vaccinated in the coming days.

Abu Bakr told the Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency that inoculation will be optional and not compulsory, with some prisoners having announced their intention to receive the vaccine. He called for doctors from other countries to supervise the vaccinations.

According to Wafa, 140 security prisoners have been infected with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

An Israeli nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Jerusalem on December 23, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel kicked off its national vaccination campaign on Sunday, with hospital workers, those over 60 and at-risk groups being the first to receive the vaccines.

Next in line to be vaccinated will be Israelis working in jobs with a high risk of being exposed to the virus, such as teachers, social workers, first responders, prison staff, Israel Defense Forces soldiers and other security personnel.

Last will come the rest of the population, with the timeline depending on how many doses arrive in Israel and the level of demand by the priority groups.

On Friday, a top Health Ministry official said Israel hopes to begin vaccinating the general public within 7-10 days.

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