Israel secretly sent vaccines to Palestinian Authority

PA Ministry of Health was not involved in the vaccine transfer


Israel secretly sent batches of coronavirus vaccines to the Palestinian Authority amid confusion within the government in Ramallah, it has emerged.

Israeli media reported on Friday that the country had transferred dozens of doses of the lifesaving drugs to the Palestinians earlier this week, after the PA appealed for "humanitarian" assistance.

The revelations appear to contradict recent claims that the Jewish state has been excluding the Palestinians from the vaccine rollout.

According to the Kan state broadcaster, the delivery was carried out away from the public eye. It was arranged by a Palestinian liaison representative together with Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories (COGAT), the JC understands.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health, which was not involved in the procurement, denied the reports. 

However, it later released its own statement confirming that Israel had made an "informal" offer of 20 doses on a trial basis – though it emphasised that the Palestinians had turned the proposal down.

The PA, which governs the 2.8 million Palestinians living on the West Bank, is responsible for health services there and has not openly asked Israel for assistance. Instead, it says it plans to procure the drugs via the United Nations’ COVAX initiative, with the first doses expected to arrive next month.

Officials in Ramallah have previously stated that they intended to procure Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which is viewed with scepticism by many experts in the West.

Israel has been rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccination to its citizens more quickly than any other country, after spending a premium to secure the first doses of the drug.

Its vaccination programme has been hailed as an astonishing achievement, with more than 1.5 million citizens treated so far, beginning with frontline workers and those over 60.

The country’s 21 per cent Arab minority has shown signs of wariness towards the vaccination, which has been a cause of concern to officials.

On Thursday, the PA Health Ministry confirmed that there were 7,315 cases of Covid in the West Bank, as well as 8,906 in Gaza. Together, the two territories have recorded 1,536 fatalities. Israel has recorded 3,565 deaths from coronavirus, with almost 3,000 new cases in the last 24 hours.

The first Pfizer drugs – which must be kept below 70 degrees – arrived in Israel on 9 December. Israeli logistics experts arranged for the drugs to be distributed in small, insulated boxes holding about 100 doses, rather than large containers. 

This allowed them to be sent with greater agility to more than 400 vaccination centres across the country, increasing ease of access for citizens.

Other Israeli innovations included managing to extract more doses from each vial of the drug.

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