The Palestinian Authority plans to renegotiate a deal to receive 1.4 million Pfizer vaccines from Israel, now that it has scrapped the original agreement out of fear that some of the injections are outdated.
PA Health Minister Mai Alkaila confirmed to the Palestinian news agency WAFA on Sunday that her office would discuss with Pfizer and the Israeli Health Ministry how to complete the implementation of the agreement in a way that would ensure the safety of the doses.
An Israeli diplomatic source confirmed that talks between the sides were ongoing on Sunday.
“We will resume discussions with Pfizer to obtain the vaccines that expire at the end of the month of July as soon as possible, so that we have sufficient time to vaccinate all groups established according to the national vaccination plan,” by which the PA hopes to achieve a 70% rate of immunity, Alkaila said.
At issue are 1.4 million unused Pfizer vaccines that Israel had purchased and whose due date is set to expire at the end of June, late July, and late August.
According to the agreement, the Palestinian Health Ministry would obtain the needed inoculations out of the 1.4 million Pfizer doses in Israel’s warehouses. The document stipulated, however, that the first batch must arrive in late May and early June. In the end, however, disagreements over details in the deal delayed its signing, and the expiration date was too close, Alkaila said.
“So we refused to receive it and returned it to the Israeli side,” she said.
Among the issue was Israel’s objection to the presence of the word “State of Palestine” in the signature of the Palestinian health minister, as well as an attempt to prevent the vaccines from going to the Gaza Strip, which was categorically rejected by the Health Ministry, she explained.
Alkaila said that the responsibility of the Health Ministry includes all the Palestinian people. “We confirmed that we will send the doses to anywhere, and no one imposes his will on this issue,” she said.
Talks continued with Israel until the end of last week, when Pfizer intervened and confirmed “that we have the right to distributing vaccines in the way we see fit, and canceling the Israeli condition for the Gaza Strip, and accordingly we agreed last Thursday to complete the agreement and it was signed,” Alkaila told WAFA.
The PA has signed an agreement with Pfizer to purchase 4,140 million doses at a price of $6.75 per dose, she said, and that “the PA was the only country in the world that was able to obtain this offer.”
The first delivery of 205,920 doses was scheduled for April, May and June, at a rate of 20,000 doses per week, she told WAFA. The second batch of 1,795,000 doses was supposed to arrive in July, August and September. The third batch of about two million doses is set for the last three months of the year, Alkaila said, but that delays were expected due to global demand, and vaccines were not due until the fall.
The absence of the vaccines would have impacted the start of school and university in the fall, she said.
Under pressure from the Palestinian Health Ministry and through international friends, Pfizer proposed a swap in which the Israeli vaccines would go to the PA, and when the fall vaccines arrived they would be sent to Israel for use on its citizens, she said.
There was a direct communication channel with the Israeli side supervised by the spokesman for the Health Ministry, Kamal Al-Shakhra, with the approval of the Palestinian president and prime minister, she said.
In addition, the health minister said her office has signed several agreements with vaccine manufacturers, including Sputnik, which was contracted to purchase 500,000 doses, but the delivery dates often change because of the huge demand for vaccines worldwide.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.