PA Rejects Israeli Deal to Transfer 1M COVID Vaccines

Medics and police officers check a shipment of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine inside a truck at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Feb. 17. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority has rejected the transfer of more than a million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Israel after its health authorities determined that they “fall short of meeting the technical criteria,” PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said in a press conference late Friday, following Palestinian public criticism.

The announcement came after Israel delivered a first shipment of 100,000 Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses to the PA, within hours of the Israeli government’s announcement of the vaccine exchange agreement.

Israel said it would supply up to 1.4 million doses of the vaccine immediately to the PA, and in September or October, when the doses purchased from Pfizer by the PA are due to arrive, the same number of doses would be returned to Israel.

The exchange deal would allow a large number of Palestinians to be vaccinated months earlier than planned.

However, after some of the vaccines had already been transferred to Palestinian possession, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced late Friday that he was canceling the shipment because they are expiring soon.

Israel, however, said it had given the Palestinians that information.

The PA’s reversal was taken after many Palestinians criticized the PA government over the deal with Israel, largely because the doses were about to expire. They called on the government to cancel the agreement.

The Israeli Health Ministry said on Motzoei Shabbos that “the COVID-19 vaccines we gave the Palestinian Authority were perfectly valid. The expiration dates were known to the PA and everything was agreed upon in advance. The Palestinians received the same vaccines that are currently given to Israelis.”

The PA government purchased four million vaccines from Pfizer and is hoping to receive them as soon as possible, she said, noting that it would continue to exert pressure on the company to provide the Palestinians with the vaccines they had purchased as soon as possible.

Already on Thursday, before any formal announcement was made, the PA reportedly held issue with two conditions surrounding the transfer of the vaccines, one of which was that the agreement would not be signed under the “State of Palestine” and the second was that the vaccines would not be transferred to the Gaza Strip. “Yesterday, we informed the Israelis that we were giving up all vaccines because they had agreed not to supply some of them to Gaza,” the Palestinian health minister said Friday. “Today, they came back to us and agreed.”