The Palestinian Authority (PA) broke off an agreement to accept over 1 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from Israel Friday.
“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 to potentially get the vaccine doses rejected by the PA, according to Haaretz.
The PA had already received the first shipment of 100,000 doses when it announced 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 the expiration date of the first shipment of vaccines, due to expire at the end of June, for 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 close to expiring. The rest of the vaccines are set to expire a month later at the end of July, according to Israeli health officials.
The PA broke off the vaccine deal after outcry from Palestinians claiming that the vaccines were bad despite not being expired and being of the same stock that Israel has 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 had agreed to send the vaccine doses to the PA to distribute because Israel already has enough doses to fill all of its demand. After reaching the deal 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 also sought to cut down on the chance of COVID-19 spreading among Israelis through the largely unvaccinated 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 still hopes to work out an agreement with the PA to accept Israel’s excess doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The PA’s decision to cancel the agreement on Friday has likely ensured that the first shipment of 100,000 doses will expire rather than inoculate Palestinians against the disease.