Israel to Swap Vaccines with South Korea

Israel agreed on Tuesday to transfer 700,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine to South Korea straight away. South Korea will then return the same number of vaccine doses to Israel sometime in the Autumn.

Pfizer vaccinePfizer Vaccine (photo: U.S. Secretary of Defence via Wikimedia Commons)

The shipment represents some of around 1 million doses that are due to expire at the end of July and were rejected by the Palestinian Authority (PA). They are said to be worth millions of dollars.

Naftali Bennett announced the agreement, saying:

“We have made a win-win deal: South Korea will receive vaccines from our
existing stocks and we will receive vaccines from their future shipment.
This will reduce the gaps and ensure that the State of Israel
has a proper stock of vaccines.”

It was early in the second half of June that the PA cancelled a deal with Israel which would have provided it with more than one million COVID-19 vaccines, saying that the Pfizer doses were too close to their expiry date.

The PA’s Health Minister claimed they had been told the jabs would expire in July or August, but found they were due to expire at the end of June, commenting:

"That`s not enough time to use them, so we rejected them."

However, the rejected vaccines were simply an initial delivery of around 100,000 doses that were due to expire at the end of June and would have been followed by many more doses that were due to expire at the end of July.

The Director General of Israel’s Health Ministry responded that Israel was actively using the same vaccines rejected by the PA to inoculate its own population. He said:

“We didn’t deliver a single vaccine [to the Palestinians] that had expired.
We delivered the exact same vaccines that we are using right now
for our people and our children.”

This makes it puzzling as to why the PA rejected the opportunity to vaccinate more than one million of its people in the West Bank by the end of July.

One possibility emerged from a poll by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research which showed that only 40 percent of Palestinians want to be vaccinated, while 35 percent do not.

Alternatively, it could be a matter of pride, given that the PA originally said that it did not need help from the Israelis. Another possibility is political expediency now that Hamas have gained in popularity as a result of the recent conflict with Israel.