The Independent Senator Frances Black has told the Seanad that Government should play a greater role in ensuring that there is a fair vaccine rollout in Palestine. 

She called for more engagement through COVAX, the initiative to rollout vaccines to low and middle-income countries, and other mechanisms to secure greater supply. 

Senator Black noted the progress made by Israel in its vaccination programme, however she told Minister of State for Overseas Development and Diaspora, Colm Brophy, that Government should not "exalt Israel for their vaccine regime, but condemn their discriminatory practice against the Palestinians". 

Israel maintains that it is the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority to co-ordinate its own vaccine rollout and secure its own supply. 

Minister Brophy told the Seanad that separate to the COVAX mechanism, 44,000 vaccines doses have been provided to occupied Palestinian territories to date.

Within that, he said 2,000 were provided by Israel, 10,000 from Russia and 20,000 from the UAE. 

Frances Black cited condemnation from Amnesty International last month, when the human rights organisation said "Israel's COVID-19 vaccine programme highlights the institutionalised discrimination that defines the Israeli government's policy towards Palestinians".

"While Israel celebrates a record-setting vaccination drive, millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will receive no vaccine or have to wait much longer," the organisation said. 

Government has pledged €50m in support of global public health including COVAX. 

Minister Colm Brophy said that COVAX is the best facility to rollout vaccinations to lower income countries. 

He told the Seanad: "COVAX aims to deliver two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to 92 low and middle-income countries. It has also negotiated options for a further 1 billion doses."

Minister Brophy said that COVAX has indicated that Palestine is a priority participant in its rollout and would receive 277,000 vaccine doses in the first half of the year. 

Mr Brophy said the EU pledge to COVAX is over €2.2bn, while the US has pledged €4bn.  

He said Palestine had begun vaccinating frontline healthcare workers, however this has been put on hold due to supply issues.

Mr Brophy expressed hope that the rollout would improve in the second quarter of the year. 

He added that representatives in Geneva are engaging with COVAX official and Ireland's representative in Ramallah is liaising with Palestinian authorities.

He told Senator Frances Black "on your central point of engagement, it is there quite strongly".

Ms Black told the Seanad,: "I believe we have a duty in this house to include the full story and shine the light on their illegal and discriminatory barriers to access the Covid vaccine".