Israel insists vaccine doses sent to Palestine were 'completely valid'

Deal for millions of Pfizer doses cancelled amid row over drug expiry date

epa09259616 A Palestinian medical worker prepares a dose of Pfizer-BioNTecha vaccine against covid19 at the Palestinian Medical center in the West Bank city of Dura, 10 June 2021. According to Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila 404,142 people were vaccinated in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  EPA/ABED AL HASHLAMOUN

Israel's health ministry insisted on Saturday that a shipment of Covid-19 vaccine doses the Palestinians rejected as about to expire were "completely valid".

The Palestinian Authority on Friday called off a deal that would have had Israel provide it with one million doses in exchange for vaccines from Pfizer that the Palestinians are scheduled to receive later this year.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said an initial delivery of about 90,000 Pfizer doses failed to conform "to the specifications contained in the agreement, so Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh instructed the minister of health to cancel the agreement".

"The government refuses to receive vaccines that are about to expire," Mr Melhem said, in a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency.

The Israeli Health Ministry said the vaccines it delivered were "completely valid", although the prime minister's office acknowledged on Friday that they were "about to expire", without specifying the use-by date.

"The Palestinian Health Ministry received Pfizer vaccines that were valid, with expiration dates that were known, agreed on and that matched the agreement between the two sides," the ministry said.

Israel launched a sweeping vaccination campaign after obtaining millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

More than 55 percent of Israel's population – about 5.1 million people – have received both doses of the vaccine.

Far fewer Palestinians – just over 270,000 people – have received their two doses in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.