An initial shipment of around 90,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine donated by Israel to the Palestinian Authority (PA) have been returned after Ramallah refused to accept it.
Israel and the PA had announced on Friday that Jerusalem would send up to 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech SE vaccines against the potentially deadly disease, but the PA later cancelled the deal and sent back the first delivery. PA Health Minister Mai Alkaila said doses were due to expire this month contrary to a July-August date that had been agreed.
Israel rejected that claim.
The “vaccine delivery transferred to the Palestinian Authority yesterday was perfectly in order,” insisted the Israeli Health Ministry in an official statement, underscoring that the expiration dates were known and agreed to by both sides.
Moreover, “The vaccines delivered to the Palestinians are identical in every way to the vaccines currently being administered to Israel’s citizens,” said the Health Ministry.
Even though the same vaccines are still effective and the same as those being administered to Israelis, many Palestinians expressed fury on social media over the Friday deal and condemned their own leadership for having accepted them.
Only 30% of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, with a total combined population of 5.2 million, have been inoculated with even a single dose, according to local officials.
By comparison, about 80% of all eligible citizens have received both doses in Israel, which has managed the world’s most successful vaccination drive. 5,150,492 of Israel’s 9 million citizens – representing just over 57% of the entire population – have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
In addition to vaccinating its own Arab citizens – even those who consider themselves to be “Palestinian” – Israel’s healthcare providers have also vaccinated laborers who enter the country for employment purposes from the PA.
Under the Oslo peace accords, the PA Health Ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and parts of the West Bank where it has limited self-rule, say Israeli officials.
Jerusalem has nevertheless previously donated vaccines to the PA, whose other supply sources include Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.