Israel halts transfer of vaccines abroad

Defence Minister Benny Gantz says decision to send them was taken without proper approval


Health workers load a box containing doses of the Moderna vaccine against COVID-19 into a plane for it delivery in the country's hospitals after 5,000 doses donated by Israel arrive at the Air Force base, in Guatemala City on February 25, 2021. (Photo by Johan ORDONEZ / AFP) (Photo by JOHAN ORDONEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel has halted the transfer of coronavirus vaccines abroad pending a review by its Attorney General on whether the move had appropriate authority. 

Some 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were due to be sent to 19 countries in a gesture of goodwill. 

Defence Minister Benny Gantz said “making such decisions without approval... raises concerns that it will harm Israel's foreign relations and national security,” i24 News reported. 

“The supply of vaccines to these countries has never been discussed in the relevant forums. This is not the first time that significant security and policy decisions have been made behind the backs of the relevant authorities."  

According to the Justice Ministry Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat said that “an order has already been issued to freeze any activity” on the transfer. 

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit is reviewing it out of concern that a petition against it might go to the High Court, the Jerusalem Post said. 

The amount of vaccines due to be sent were “symbolic and builds a good name for Israel in the world,” an official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office was quoted by the paper as saying. 

Israel has vaccinated half its population with at least one dose. 

A batch of 5,000 vaccines from Israel were received earlier this week by Honduras, the first vaccines to reach the Central American country, where they will be used to immunise medical staff. 

Its president Juan Orlando Hernandez said it was “a historic day of hope” and thanked Israel and “my friend, Benjamin Netanyahu”, the Andalou Agency reported. 

Other countries due to be sent vaccines included Ethiopia, Uganda, Cyprus, Hungary and the Czech Republic. 

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