Israel expands vaccination campaign to teens, continues refusal to inoculate Palestinians
Since the rollout of vaccinations one month ago, more than 2.5 million of Israel's nine-million-strong population have been vaccinated already, the health ministry said on Friday.
But Israel has been criticised by human rights groups for refusing to vaccinate Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
While the Israeli Prison Service has extended the inoculation campaign to include Palestinian detainees, the government denies it is responsible for public health in the occupied territories. That is despite the fact it has vaccinated Israelis living in illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Israel's obligation to vaccinate Palestinians was "heightened after more than 50 years of occupation with no end in sight", Human Rights Watch said earlier this week.
Expanding the campaign to include teens came days after Israel extended its third national coronavirus lockdown due to a surge in coronavirus infections.
That began on Tuesday and will last until the end of the month.
On Thursdya, the health ministry announced it was allowing the inoculation of high school students aged 16-18, subject to parental approval.
The country's largest health fund, Clalit, was already giving teens shots as of Saturday morning, its website said, while the three smaller funds were due to kick off their campaign later.
Israel began administering vaccines on December 20, beginning with health professionals and quickly proceeding to the elderly, sick and at-risk groups, continuously lowering the minimum age of those entitled to the shot.
From Saturday, people aged 40 and up are also allowed to get the vaccine.
According to the health ministry, as of Friday nearly 2.5 million people had received the first of two doses, with 900,000 of them getting the second as well.
The country secured a huge stock of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and has pledged to share the impact data quickly with the US-German manufacturer.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the swift vaccination campaign "will afford us the possibility of overcoming the coronavirus, of emerging from it, of opening the economy and getting life back to routine".
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