Health chief: Same vaccines rejected by PA being given to our kids ‘right now’

Palestinians sent back 90,000 vaccines expiring at end of June, saying they were not okay, but Israel using doses with same expiration date to vaccinate children aged 12-15

A bottle of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine doses, which expires June 2021, seen after shots from the bottle were administered to Israeli teens on June 21, 2021. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)
A bottle of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine doses, which expires June 2021, seen after shots from the bottle were administered to Israeli teens on June 21, 2021. (Amanda Borschel-Dan/Times of Israel)

Health Ministry Director General Chezy Levy said Monday that Israel is using the same vaccines rejected by the Palestinian Authority to inoculate its own population against the coronavirus “right now.”

The PA on Friday agreed to but then later rejected a deal for Israel to deliver some 1 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, saying that the first 100,000 delivered were too close to expiring.

Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said they “did not meet standards and so we decided to return them.” The PA on Sunday said it would seek to renegotiate the deal.

But Levy said the vaccines were absolutely fine and Israel was using the same ones, including as part of its drive to vaccinate children aged 12 to 15.

“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,” Levy told Channel 12 news, explaining that the initial shipment to Palestinians was of vaccines that expire at the end of June and later shipments would have later expiration dates.

A Times of Israel reporter said that her children were vaccinated with doses on Monday due to expire at the end of June.

Chezy Levy, the director-general of the Health Ministry, at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Herzliya on December 20, 2020. (Flash90)

Levy declined to try and explain what motivated the Palestinians to reject the shots — “I’ll leave it for them to explain” — but said Israel will continue to try to help give them vaccines.

“The vaccines came out of the storehouses, under the most stringent controls, with the correct temperature. Everything we gave them was valid,” he said.

Israeli youth receive Covid-19 vaccines at a Clalit Covid-19 vaccination center in Petah Tikva, on June 6, 2021. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also said earlier in the day that Israel would continue to try and provide the Palestinians with vaccines.

Levy also urged adolescents to get vaccinated, as part of a new government push with cases rising among youths. He said between 20,000 and 21,000 minors between 12 and 15 have been vaccinated since the country lowered the minimum eligibility age to 12 two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, three countries have contacted Israel to inquire about the possibility of obtaining vaccines rejected by the Palestinians in recent days if Ramallah indeed decides it doesn’t want them, the Haaretz daily reported Sunday.

Citing an unnamed diplomatic source, the paper said Israel was in touch with the countries about a batch of doses set to expire in July.

If an agreement is reached it would be under the same terms as the deal with the Palestinians, whereby Israel would be restocked out of the future vaccine shipments to those countries. The deal would need the approval of Pfizer.

Ramallah has been slow to roll out its coronavirus vaccine response, and fewer than one-fifth of West Bank Palestinians are currently vaccinated.

Despite Israel’s highly successful vaccination campaign, over the past few days, Israel has experienced an uptick in new COVID cases, with outbreaks in Binyamina and Modiin, where dozens of unvaccinated children tested positive for the coronavirus. The Health Ministry on Sunday reinstituted the mask mandate in schools in the two towns.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 387 active COVID cases in Israel, with 48 new cases confirmed on Sunday.

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