Israel challenges PA rejection of Covid vaccines, says they are perfectly fine

Politics rather than health concerns are suspected as motivation for Palestinian rejection of some 1.4 million life-saving doses.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The Israeli Health Ministry on Saturday categorically rejected Palestinian Authority (PA) claims that the Covid-19 vaccines it had sent to Ramallah on Friday were not up to proper health standards.

“The Palestinian Health Ministry received Pfizer vaccines that were valid, with expiration dates that were known, agreed on and that matched the agreement between the two sides,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The Palestinians received the same vaccines that are currently given to Israelis,” it added.

When the PA reneged on the deal just hours after it had been signed, Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said it was because the doses they had received “fall short of meeting the technical criteria” necessary and were expiring soon.

PA spokesman Ibrahim Melhem had also stressed the approaching termination dates as the reason for cancelling the agreement,

“The government refuses to receive vaccines that are about to expire,” he said in an official statement.

Some 90,000 doses had been handed over to Palestinian officials on Friday as the first tranche of up to 1.4 million vaccines that Israel had overbought and felt it could not use up before their expiration dates. In exchange, the PA agreed to give Israel a similar number of doses it was set to receive from Pfizer only in September or October.

Some of the vaccines Israel sent are valid until the end of June, while many are fine until the end of July, and the rest – some 1.3 million doses – are valid for even a few more months. This would seem to give the PA time to inoculate its citizens, and much more quickly than otherwise expected.

According to various Palestinian sources, 10-30 percent of residents have received a partial or full dose of the vaccine. The Gaza Strip is far behind, having only vaccinated some 53,000 of the approximately 1.8 million residents, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is accepted practice to use vaccines before their expiry date in order to ensure they are at full strength. However, the Covid-19 vaccines are still very new and much is yet unknown about them. The WHO has told governments with too many doses still in storage that they should not destroy them even if that date has passed because researchers are currently checking whether they could be effective for longer periods.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, head of the Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA) news group, which analyzes developments in Arab-Israeli relations, said that the PA was simply playing politics instead of being concerned about its peoples’ health.

“Propaganda against the Jewish State is more important to the leadership of the PA than the lives of their people,” he wrote in an op-ed on Arutz 7 Sunday.

He also questioned whether human rights groups would condemn the government in Ramallah for endangering its citizens instead of giving them the chance to get the vaccine. Thus far, the opposite has happened.

Ghada Majadle, a coordinator for Physicians for Human Rights, said, “Instead of taking responsibility and providing vaccinations without delay to the entire population and without unnecessary calculations, Israel is making deals with the lives and health of millions of people.”

As per the Oslo Accords, it is the Palestinian Authority that is in charge of the health of its people.