Palestinians Call Off Vaccine Transfer Agreement with Israel

Published June 19th, 2021 - 05:59 GMT
Covid19 vaccine
Covid19 vaccine (Shutterstock)
Rights groups say Israel, as an occupying regime, is obliged to provide Palestinians with COVID-19 vaccines. 

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says it has scrapped an agreement with Israel on the transfer of one million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines from the regime to Palestinians in exchange for a similar number of doses from Palestinians later this year, saying Israel's first batch of vaccines are unusable as they are about to expire soon.

“After the technical teams in the ministry of health examined the first batch of the Pfizer vaccines that were received this evening from Israel, it became clear that the 90,000 doses received do not conform to the specifications contained in the agreement,” said PA spokesman Ibrahim Melhem at a joint press conference with Minister of Health Mai Alkaila in Ramallahin the occupied West Bank on Friday. 

“Accordingly, Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh instructed the minister of health to cancel the agreement with the Israeli side on exchanging the vaccine and returning the quantity that was received today to Israel,” Melhem added.

Alkaila said at the presser that under the agreement, the first batch of the Israeli vaccines had to expire in July or August, while those collected Friday would expire in June.

"They told us the expiration date was in July or August, which would allow lots of time for use... But (the expiration) turned out to be in June. That's not enough time to use them, so we rejected them," she said.

Earlier on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said in a statement that the regime would “supply” around one million doses of Pfizer vaccines “that are about to expire” to the PA in exchange for a similar number of fresh doses of the same vaccines the Palestinians expect to receive from its developer company later this year.

Since the announcement, Palestinian officials have come under heavy criticism on social media over the agreement on receiving soon-to-expire vaccines from Israel, with critics suggesting that the doses might not be effective. 

Rights groups say Israel, as an occupying regime, is obliged to provide Palestinians with COVID-19 vaccines. 

Israel has vaccinated nearly 85 percent of its population.

Nevertheless, just over 270,000 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian health ministry, have received two doses in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip, home to a combined 5.2 million people.

Palestinian officials say that some 30 percent of eligible Palestinians in both Palestinian territories have received at least one vaccine dose.

The ministry’s figures also show that more than 300,000 infections have so far been recorded in the West Bank and Gaza, including 3,545 deaths.

Health Minister Alkaila also said on that from the beginning it was made clear to Israel that these vaccines shall conform to all specifications and conditions of validity and safety.

She stressed that the PA would continue to exert pressure on Pfizer in order to obtain the vaccines purchased as soon as possible, according to Palestine's official Wafa news agency.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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