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Palestinians approve Russian COVID-19 vaccine for use, Russian wealth fund says

FILE PHOTO: A medical worker fills a syringe with Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine as she prepares to vaccinate a Russian Army service member at a clinic in the city of Rostov-On-Don, Russia December 22, 2020. REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Palestinian health ministry has approved the main Russian vaccine against COVID-19, known as Sputnik V, for use in Palestinian self-ruled territory, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund said on Monday.

The first shipment of the shot is expected to arrive next month, with all deliveries expected in the first quarter of this year, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad.

Outside Russia, where authorities say over a million people have now been inoculated with Sputnik V, the vaccine has also been approved for emergency use by local regulators in Algeria, Argentina, Bolivia and Serbia, RDIF has said.

RDIF did not disclose how many doses would be shipped to the Palestinian Authority – which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank under interim peace deals with Israel – but said the supplies would be facilitated by manufacturing partners in India, China, South Korea and elsewhere.

Russian authorities have said that any Sputnik V export deals would involve only doses produced by such manufacturing partners abroad, with Russian-made vaccines primarily used to meet domestic needs.

Hence Russia’s first major international shipment of vaccine doses – 300,000 that left Moscow for Argentina last month – caused an outcry at home, as critics questioned why exports were being prioritised over domestic requirements.

The Palestinian Authority said on Sunday it expected to receive its first COVID-19 vaccine doses from British drugmaker AstraZeneca in March, and accused Israel of shirking a duty to ensure vaccines are available in occupied territory.

While Israel has become the world leader in vaccinations per capita, Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip – where Hamas Islamists rule – have yet to obtain their first supplies.

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