Israel is holding negotiations with the United Kingdom to broker a COVID-19 vaccine swap deal, according to an Israeli television report Wednesday.
Under the exchange, Israel, which currently has an excess of doses, would ship around 1 million of its Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines that are due to expire on July 30 to the UK, Channel 12 news reported.
In exchange, the Health Ministry would receive an equivalent number of vaccines that the UK is slated to receive from Pfizer in September.
The network described the talks on the proposed deal as “advanced” and said the shipments could begin as soon as next week. Israel is said to have around 1.4 million doses set to expire at the end of next month.
Israel is also reportedly seeking answers from Pfizer on whether it can use the vaccines it already has past their declared expiration date. But without a clear answer, the network said Israel was warning it will not offer the first COVID shot to Israelis after July 9, since there will not be unexpired vaccines for their second dose three weeks later.
Government officials have been encouraging Israelis — adolescents in particular — to get a first shot before the July 9 deadline so they can get their second dose before the expiration date.
On Monday, Kan news reported that the Health Ministry would destroy at least 800,000 expiring coronavirus vaccine doses if no buyers are found for them in the next two weeks. The vaccine doses are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the broadcaster.
Earlier this month, Israel attempted a similar vaccine deal with the Palestinian Authority, but it fell through after the PA backtracked from receiving soon-to-be-expired doses, claiming they were not up to snuff. The PA later said it would seek to renegotiate the deal.
Israel said the vaccines were fine and that it was using them itself as part of its drive to vaccinate children aged 12 to 15.
The push to get young Israelis vaccinated comes as Israel deals with a renewed rise in coronavirus cases, with much of the jump linked to schools and the spread of the more contagious Delta variant from abroad.
As of Wednesday evening, Health Ministry figures showed 5,587,320 people out of Israel’s population of some 9.3 million have gotten their first vaccine shot. Of those, 5,167,674 received their second dose.
The ministry also reported 224 new cases since midnight, bringing the number of active infections to 1,882. The positivity rate on the close to 41,000 tests performed Wednesday was 0.5 percent, similar to the past few days.
The number of serious cases, which have remained stable since daily cases began increasing again, ticked up slightly to 26.
The death toll remained at 6,429, with only one fatality in over two weeks, indicating the success of Israel’s mass national vaccination campaign in protecting against serious morbidity and mortality.