Israel to deliver expiring Covid vaccines to Palestinians

Israel to deliver expiring Covid vaccines to Palestinians in exchange for new Ramallah-destined Pfizer doses
2 min read
18 June, 2021
Israel will transfer Covid vaccine doses that are about to expire in exchange for a later shipment of Pfizer vaccines that were originally meant to go to the Palestinians.
Just over 260,000 Palestinians have received their two doses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip [Getty]

Israel is to provide around one million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Palestinians in the West Bank in a swap as their expiry date looms, the Israeli prime minister's office said on Friday.

"Israel [...] will supply approximately one million doses of Pfizer vaccine that is about to expire," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office said, in a joint statement with the defence and health ministries.

Israel "will receive in return the doses that Pfizer is to send to the Palestinian Authority," the statement added.

The Palestinian Authority, based in the occupied West Bank, did not immediately comment on the deal.

"Israel will receive the same amount of doses of Pfizer in September/October 2021, on behalf of what is destined for the Palestinian Authority," the Israeli statement added.

"This agreement was made possible after noting that the stock of vaccines that Israel has in its possession meets its current needs," the statement alleged.

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More than 55 percent of Israel's population - some 5.1 million people - have received both doses of the vaccine.

On the Palestinian side, just over 260,000 people have received their two doses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Some five million people live in the occupied West Bank and besieged strip.

From Wednesday to Thursday, 170 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in the West Bank and Gaza, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to more than 312,000, 3,540 of them.

The deal comes amid high tensions between Tel Aviv and the Palestinians, with violations of a fragile ceasefire that has seen Israeli jets bombard the impoverished enclave for a second time late on Thursday since the ceasefire.

In Gaza, the coronavirus response has been hobbled by last month's violence, which devastated infrastructure and reduced entire tower blocks to piles of smoking rubble.

Israel has faced months of intense criticism from rights groups and medical professionals for hindering Palestinian efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus and refusing to include Palestinians living mere kilometres away under its military occupation in its vaccination drive.

The PA has begun receiving vaccines through COVAX, a global vaccine program for poor and middle-income countries backed by the World Health Organization. However, earlier shipments to occupied territories were blocked by Israel.