Palestinian govt cancels expired COVID-19 vaccine deal with Israel
By Ahmed Asmar
ANKARA (AA):- The Palestinian government canceled a deal on Friday to receive coronavirus vaccine doses from Israel because the doses appeared to have expired and did not meet the technical criteria of the Health Ministry.
After examination of “the first batch of the Pfizer vaccines … it was found that they don’t conform to the specifications contained in the agreement,” said government spokesperson Ibrahim Melhem at a news conference. “Accordingly, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh instructed the Minister of Health to cancel the agreement.”
Israel sent the first batch of 90,000 doses of 1 million earlier Friday to the Palestinian Authority under a deal in which the Palestinian Authority would give back the doses to Israel from its purchased quantity from Pfizer scheduled to be received in September or October.
In a statement to the official WAFA news agency, Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said the government contracted with Pfizer to purchase 4 million doses but the company would not be able to start delivering before October or November.
Al-Kaila added that to meet the urgent need, Pfizer suggested that the Palestinian Authority takes excess stock of doses from Israel.
Melhem added that the government would wait for the delivery directly from Pfizer in batches as agreed between the Palestinian Authority and the company.
For months, Israel refused to provide vaccines to the Palestinians, vaccinating only about 130,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel.
The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan were only for citizens of Israel, including Israeli settlers living inside the occupied West Bank, and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. It excludes 5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under Israeli military occupation.
Israel has been criticised by human rights groups for not providing vaccines to the Palestinians, who live under Israeli military rule.
“Nothing can justify today’s reality in parts of the West Bank, where people on one side of the street are receiving vaccines, while those on the other do not, based on whether they’re Jewish or Palestinian,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.
“Israel’s COVID-19 vaccine programme highlights the institutionalized discrimination that defines the Israeli government’s policy towards Palestinians. While Israel celebrates a record-setting vaccination drive, millions of Palestinians living under Israeli control in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will receive no vaccine or have to wait much longer – there could hardly be a better illustration of how Israeli lives are valued above Palestinian ones,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
“Israeli authorities must ensure that vaccines are equally provided to the Palestinians living under their control, in order to meet their obligations under international law. They must also ensure smooth entry of vaccines and other medical equipment to the OPT, including making any necessary logistical arrangements to ensure the safety and effectiveness of these vaccines.”
Additional report by The Muslim News
[Photo: A Palestinian healthcare worker administers a dose of Covid-19 vaccine as Palestine started to vaccinate frontline workers, older residents, cancer patients and medical personnel, at the health ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 21, 2021. The Palestinian Health Ministry began administering the first doses of coronavirus vaccines it received from the global COVAX initiative. Photographer: Issam Rimawi /AA]
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