The Palestinian Authority on Friday called off an agreement whereby Israel would transfer 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to it in exchange for a similar number later this year.
The Palestinians said the doses, which Israel began shipping to the occupied West Bank, are too close to expiring and do not meet their standards. In announcing the agreement, Israel had said the vaccines “will expire soon” without specifying the date.
The new Israeli government, which was sworn in on Sunday, said it would transfer 1 million doses of Pfizer vaccines that are close to expiring, and that the PA would reimburse it with a similar number of vaccines when it receives them from the pharmaceutical company in September or October. Up to 1.4 million doses could be exchanged, the Israeli government said in a statement.
COGAT, the Israeli military body that coordinates civilian affairs in the occupied territories, said it had coordinated the delivery of the first 100,000 doses to the West Bank on Friday.
The Palestinians portrayed the agreement differently, saying Pfizer had suggested the transfer as a way of speeding up its delivery of 4 million doses that the PA had already paid for in an agreement reached directly with the drug company.
“This is not an agreement with Israel, but with the Pfizer company," Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said earlier Friday, before the deal was called off.
At a press conference Friday evening, she said health officials who inspected the vaccines found they “did not meet standards.”
"They told us the expiration date was in July or August, which would allow lots of time for use," Alkaila told reporters.
"But (the expiration) turned out to be in June. That's not enough time to use them, so we rejected them," she said.
Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh ordered the cancellation of the agreement and the return of the vaccines to Israel, his spokesman said. Ibrahim Milhim said the Palestinians would not accept “about-to-expire” vaccines from Israel, citing the official Israeli statement.
The Palestinians have received vaccine doses from Israel, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.