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Israel and Palestinian Authority agree swap deal on more than one million Covid doses

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A Palestinian medical worker receives a Covi-19 vaccine at the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital in the West Bank city of Hebron (EPA)
A Palestinian medical worker receives a Covi-19 vaccine at the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital in the West Bank city of Hebron (EPA)

Israel has said it will give up to 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the Palestinian Authority to help boost its vaccination programme under a deal to share shots.

Under the terms of the deal, announced by the office of new Israeli prime minister, Naftali Bennett, the PA will agree to give Israel a reciprocal number of Pfizer-BioNTech doses from one of its own shipments later this year.

“Israel will transfer to the Palestinian Authority 1-1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine,” said a statement from Bennett’s office.

As many as 100,000 have already been handed over, said officials.

Confirming the agreement, the PA health ministry said in a statement it was Pfizer that initially offered the exchange and that “it was approved in order to speed up the vaccination process” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Rights groups have criticised Israel for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in territory it captured in the 1967 war.

The announcement came as a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was tested once again overnight. The Israeli military struck Hamas targets and explosive-laden balloons were launched from Gaza.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli police on Temple Mount and there were also clashes in the West Bank.

In Israel, more than 5 million citizens have been vaccinated with both Pfizer doses, and the number of Covid cases has sharply declined to only a handful of new infections recorded per day, leading the country to lift most restrictions.

The swap of the surplus vaccines will not affect Israel’s vaccination programmes.

Approximately 30 per cent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received their first dose of the vaccine with about 100,000 of those vaccinated being Palestinian workers that Israel has vaccinated in recent months, in addition to the 5,000 doses given to Palestinian healthcare workers in the West Bank.

A senior Palestinian official told The Independent on Friday that the PA had purchased 4 million doses from Pfizer, but the date for their delivery will be either October or next November.

A Palestinian protester seeks cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli troops after a protest against Israeli settlements at Beta village near the West Bank City of Nablus (EPA)
A Palestinian protester seeks cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli troops after a protest against Israeli settlements at Beta village near the West Bank City of Nablus (EPA)

“We need to vaccinate a million citizens, so we will administer the vaccines that we will get from Israel and they will retrieve it as soon as the shipments we bought from Pfizer arrive,” said the official.

Israel recently came under immense pressure to help the Palestinian vaccination programme --- they say under the Oslo Accords the Palestinian Authority is responsible for looking after its own health system and did not originally request Israel’s help with its vaccination programme.

The Palestinian Authority originally planned to source its own supply of the Russian Sputnik vaccine.

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