The Palestinian Authority cancelled a deal on Friday to receive soon-to-expire Covid-19 vaccines from Israel, after an initial Israeli shipment displayed an expiration date sooner than had been agreed, the authority's health minister said.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority announced a vaccine swap deal earlier on Friday that would have had Israel send up to 1.4 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses to the Palestinians in exchange for receiving a reciprocal number of doses later this year.
The doses were due to "expire soon", Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office said in a statement announcing the deal.
The Palestinian Authority said they had been "approved in order to speed up the vaccination process" in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
"They told us the expiration date was in July or August, which would allow lots of time for use," Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai Al Kaila said on Friday.
"But [the expiration] turned out to be in June. That's not enough time to use them, so we rejected them."
A PA spokesman said the initial shipment of around 90,000 doses had been sent back to Israel.
Mr Bennett's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rights groups have criticised Israel, which led one of the world's swiftest vaccination campaigns, for not doing more to ensure Palestinian access to doses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli officials argue that under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian health ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and parts of the West Bank, where it has limited self-rule.
The vaccine deal was among initial policy moves towards the Palestinians by Mr Bennett, who was sworn in on Sunday to replace Benjamin Netanyahu.
Around 55 per cent of Israel's population of 9.3 million is fully vaccinated. In June eligibility was expanded to include 12- to 15-year-olds.
Some 30 per cent of eligible Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, home to a combined 5.2 million people, have received at least one vaccine dose, Palestinian officials say.
A poll released on Tuesday by the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research showed that 40 per cent of Palestinians are willing to take the vaccine once it is available, while 35 per cent say they and their families are not willing to be vaccinated.
The Palestinians have received vaccine doses from the UAE, Israel, Russia, China and the global Covax vaccine-sharing initiative.