The Palestinian Authority (PA) has refused to accept over an exchange of over 1 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from Israel.
“The new Israeli government, which was sworn in on Sunday, said it would transfer Pfizer vaccines that are close to expiring, and that the Palestinian Authority would reimburse it with a similar number of vaccines when it receives them from the pharmaceutical company in September or October,” the Associated Press reported. “Up to 1.4 million doses could be exchanged, the Israeli government said in a statement.”
Three other countries have reportedly contacted the Israeli government requesting the vaccine doses that were rejected by the PA, according to Haaretz.
The PA had already received a shipment of 100,000 doses prior to announcing that it was rejecting the aid, according to the Times Of Israel.
“It became clear to us they did not conform to the specifications contained in the agreement,” a spokesman for PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said in a statement, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The PA cited that the shipment was due to expire at the end of June as reason rejecting all of the 1 million doses offered.
Israel’s health ministry said that the vaccines are “perfectly sound” and that the PA knew ahead of time that the first batch was soon to expire. The rest of the vaccines offered were to expire a month later at the end of July, according to Israeli health reports.
The PA ended the deal following an outcry from Palestinians who claim the vaccines were bad despite being of the same stock Israel used to vaccinate its own citizens. The PA is struggling to maintain its hold on the West Bank, historically the regions of Judea and Samaria, as the terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, rises in popularity among Palestinians. As the Jerusalem Post reports:
Just last week, a public opinion poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that support for the PA’s main rival, Hamas, has increased dramatically since the last war between the Gaza-based terrorist group and Israel. The poll also showed that 84% of the Palestinians believe there is corruption in PA institutions.
Israel offered to send the vaccine doses to the PA for distribution as Israel has enough doses to fill its demand. After the deal was reached to hand over the vaccines to the PA, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted, “We will continue to find effective ways to cooperate for the benefit of people in the region.”
Israel has also aimed to cut down on the spread of COVID-19 around the country through the largely unvaccinated neighbouring Palestinian population. As the Wall Street Journal reported:
The Palestinian Authority has lagged behind in their vaccination drive, largely because of a short supply and lack of health-services infrastructure. Of the nearly five million Palestinians living within the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, 445,412 have had at least one shot, or less than 9% of the population, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Friday. About 4.5% of that population has been fully vaccinated.
Israeli officials say the Palestinian Authority must shoulder the responsibility for its citizens’ healthcare, including procuring vaccines. Humanitarian organizations have called on Israel to use excess vaccines to inoculate about five million Palestinians who live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israel is still seeking to come to an agreement with the PA to accept its excess doses of vaccine.