Israel to send a million AstraZeneca vaccines to Africa

"The State of Israel joins the international effort to vaccinate populations that are unable to obtain vaccines,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said.

 A photo illustration showing ampoules of Covid-19 vaccine for children at a Clallit vaccine center in Jerusalem on November 28, 2021. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
A photo illustration showing ampoules of Covid-19 vaccine for children at a Clallit vaccine center in Jerusalem on November 28, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Israel will send a million AstraZeneca vaccines to Africa, the Foreign Ministry confirmed Wednesday.

The decision was made after nearly a month of discussion between the Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry and the Health Ministry.

“The State of Israel joins the international effort to vaccinate populations that are unable to obtain vaccines,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said. “I am happy that Israel can contribute and be a partner in eradicating the virus in the world.”

He added that, “As long as there is no vaccine distribution that will help eradicate the virus worldwide, the coronavirus will continue to spread and new variants will develop in areas where vaccination rates are low.”

The Omicron variant, which is spreading across the world, likely originated in South Africa.

 Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid at his faction's meeting, December 13, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) Foreign Minister and Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid at his faction's meeting, December 13, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Less than 25% of South Africa is vaccinated. Only around 6% of the African continent has been inoculated. In some African countries, fewer than 1% of citizens have had the jab.

The ministry said that Israel has strengthened ties with the African continent in recent months, including returning to observer status in the African Union. It said that it hopes that this vaccine donation will contribute to further strengthening ties between Israel and Africa.

The vaccines will be donated via the COVAX program, a partnership of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, GAVI and CEPI to help administer vaccines to poor and middle-income countries. So far, COVAX has fallen far short of its 2021 vaccine distribution goals.

Israel came under fire by the WHO for moving to distribute a third shot when so many countries worldwide have not been able to inoculate their elderly and healthcare workers.

Upon hearing that Israel was going to donate the vaccines, Dorit Nitzan, the WHO’s European Region Health Emergencies coordinator, said that “These are great developments and so timely. Health security is a global challenge. Time to look beyond borders.

“The COVAX platform is the right tool to provide the support,” she said. “WHO and partners have the full picture on the global needs and capabilities and when providing vaccines through COVAX WHO can assure their prompt use. Thank you, Israel!”