TEL AVIV: Israel will send at least 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under a deal to share shots, officials said on Friday, in a boost for the Palestinians’ vaccination campaign in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Under the terms of the deal, announced by new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office, the PA agreed to give Israel a reciprocal number of doses from one of its own shipments due to arrive later this year.
The vaccine deal was among initial policy moves towards the Palestinians by Bennett since he was sworn in on Sunday, replacing veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Israel will transfer to the Palestinian Authority 1-1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” a joint statement from Bennett’s office and the health and defence ministries said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech doses earmarked for transfer “will expire soon”, the statement said, and they were “approved in light of the fact that Israel’s vaccine stock meets its needs today.”
A source in the PA health ministry confirmed the deal and said the Palestinians expect to receive a shipment of Pfizer doses in August or September. The Israeli statement said Israel would receive reciprocal doses from the PA in September or October.
Neither side said when the initial Israeli transfer to the PA would be made.
Israel, which led the world with its swift vaccine roll-out, had faced criticism for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in territory it captured in a 1967 war.
Around 55% of eligible Israelis are fully vaccinated - a turnout largely unchanged by this month’s expansion of eligibility to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
Some 30% of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received at least one vaccine dose, according to Palestinian officials.
The Palestinians have received vaccine doses from Israel, Russia, China, the United Arab Emirates and the global COVAX vaccine-sharing initiative.