The Palestinian Authority called off an agreement under which Israel would transfer one million doses of coronavirus vaccines to it, citing the close expiration date of the Pfizer vials, despite the Israel Health Ministry’s insistence the vaccines were “perfectly sound” and identical to those administered to Israelis.
Earlier this year, the Palestinians falsely claimed Israel was preventing the Palestinians from accessing coronavirus vaccines, in what was slammed by Israel’s envoy to the UN as a “grotesque blood libel.”
On Friday, hours after signing the agreement to receive the vaccines, the PA backtracked and said that the doses were too close to expiring and did not meet their standards. It said it had rejected a first batch of some 100,000 doses which were set to expire at the beginning of July.
The Health Ministry in Jerusalem reacted with surprise at the move, saying that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were “perfectly sound” and “identical in every way to the vaccines currently being given to citizens of Israel.” The ministry added that the Palestinians were aware of the expiration date prior to the deal.
According to health officials, using vaccines with a close expiration date is standard practice but the PA was nevertheless accused of accepting subpar vaccines by many Palestinian groups.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terrorist group described the deal as “humiliating” and claimed it “could have harmed human life.”
Israel announced Friday it would transfer around 1 million doses of soon-to-expire coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority in exchange for a similar number of doses the Palestinians are expected to receive later this year from Pfizer.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz tweeted: “The coronavirus does not recognize borders or differences between peoples. This important move to swap vaccines is in all of our interests. I hope this move will lead to further cooperation between Israel and our Palestinian neighbors in other fields.”
Israel conducted the world’s most successful vaccination drive, with more than 80 percent of its adult population having received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The Palestinian Authority, meanwhile, is struggling to vaccinate its population.
It had claimed that the onus to vaccinate its population lay with Israel, however, according to the Oslo Accords, the responsibility to do so lies directly with the Palestinians.
It also never formally requested Israel’s help in vaccinating its people and had informed Israel that it intends to purchase vaccines from the Russian government – a move Israel said it would help facilitate. Israel did, however, vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians under employ in Israel.
Israel last week ditched the requirement to wear masks indoors – the last of its coronavirus regulations.