Augusta Victoria Hospital starts COVID-19 vaccinations

AVH staff carry out the vaccinations themselves. The immunizations will enable them to better protect their high-risk patients. Photos: LWF/ E.Shaheen

Priority to medical staff in East Jerusalem

(LWI) - Vaccinations against COVID-19 have started at the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in East Jerusalem. The first vaccines were administered on 31 December 2020 to staff at the hospital

The Augusta-Victoria-Hospital (AVH) is part of the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, a group of six health care institutions providing specialized treatment to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. As these hospitals fall under the Ministry of Health jurisdiction in Israel, they are included in the Israeli vaccination campaign. “The Ministry of Health has selected three hospitals in East Jerusalem to carry out vaccinations for all medical and other hospital staff in East Jerusalem,” explained Sieglinde Weinbrenner, LWF country representative in Jerusalem. The hospital staff started the campaign with the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine which has been approved in Israel. 

300 people per day

AVH is carrying out vaccinations for their personnel and those of the Red Crescent Hospital. AVH can vaccinate up to 300 people per day and is able to increase this to more people. 

AVH offers oncology and pediatric dialysis treatments, which are not available in Gaza or the West Bank. “The vaccination at AVH at this point is to protect the medical and hospital staff, not for the general population,” Weinbrenner says. The Israeli Ministry of Health will coordinate the vaccinations for the 350,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Weinbrenner adds, with priority for high-risk groups and people older than 60 years.  

Concern for Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza 

AVH staff bring the vaccine in a cold box. Hospital staff are first to be vaccinated in Jerusalem.

“While we are relieved to be able to protect our staff, we are concerned about the situation in Gaza and the West Bank,” says Maria Immonen, director of LWF World Service. According to the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Palestinian Authority has applied to receive financial support from the COVAX initiative. COVAX is a global risk-sharing mechanism by the World Health Organization (WHO) to give low-and middle-income countries equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine.  

While that application is being processed, the Palestinian Authority is developing a COVID-19 National Deployment and Vaccination Plan to outline strategies for deploying, implementing, and monitoring vaccination in the Palestinian Territories.  

“It is important to note how difficult setting up the vaccination schemes is all over the world, as evidenced daily in news reports across the globe. Developing countries face even more challenges, as health infrastructures and logistical capacities are weak and fragile,” Immonen said.  

“This is difficult in developed countries, and many more times so in countries dealing with conflict, natural disasters, and other humanitarian challenges. All must promote efforts to support equal access to the vaccine. The pandemic cannot be brought under  control without a global effort.” 
LWF/ C. Kästner 

The LWF Augusta-Victoria-Hospital on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem is a center of medical excellence and provides life-saving treatment to 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. AVH offers specialized care that is not available in other hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza, including radiation therapy for cancer patients and pediatric hemodialysis. ​