Jerusalem, June 18: Israel said Friday it will 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 expect to receive later this year. Israel, which has reopened after vaccinating some 85% of its adult population, has faced criticism for not sharing its vaccines with the 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
The agreement was announced by the new Israeli government that was sworn in on Sunday. It said it would transfer Pfizer vaccines that will expire soon, and that the PA would transfer a similar number of vaccines when it receives them from the pharmaceutical company In September or October.
Israel has carried out one of the most successful vaccination programs in the world, allowing it to fully reopen businesses and schools. This week, authorities lifted the requirement to wear masks in public, one of the last remaining restrictions. COVID-19 Vaccine Latest Update: WHO Accepts Bharat Biotech’s Expression of Interest for COVAXIN Emergency Use Listing, Awaiting Phase-3 Trials Data.
Rights groups have said that Israel, as an occupying power, is obliged to provide vaccines to the Palestinians. Israel denies having such an obligation, pointing to interim peace agreements reached with the Palestinians in the 1990s.
Those agreements say the PA, which has limited autonomy in parts of the occupied West Bank, is responsible for health care but that the two sides should cooperate to combat pandemics.
Gaza is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and Western countries. The PA has said it is acquiring its own supplies through agreements with private companies and a World Health Organization programme designed to aid needy countries. It was not immediately clear whether the expected Pfizer doses are being supplied through that program, known as COVAX, or a private arrangement.