The Palestinian health minister said the sudden change came after health officials in Ramallah oversaw the first delivery of about 90,000 doses on Friday afternoon.
According to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, Minister Mai Alcala said, “It was found that the dosages did not conform to the technical specifications, as previously agreed, and their expiration date was nearing.”
“Therefore, we reached out to Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, and it was decided to cancel the deal,” Alkaila said.
The move to transfer Israel’s surplus stock of Pfizer vaccines to Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, an arrangement already in the works under the previous Netanyahu administration, was announced Friday morning by the Israeli government, according to Israeli media reports.
A government statement acknowledged that the vaccines “will expire soon” but it was unclear how much time was left for Palestinian health officials to administer doses before expiration.
According to Reuters, Alcala said Israel had told the PA that the vaccines had expired in July or August, but that the exact date was June.
As part of the agreed arrangement, a shipment of Pfizer vaccines for PA was later to be transferred to Israel. The PA says it is now asking Pfizer to expedite that shipment to the Palestinians in accordance with the original contract.
Israel’s leaders won considerable international acclaim at the start of the year for the highly successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination in the country to a population of 9 million.
But he has been criticized for failing to provide vaccines to cover Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel is obliged to do under the Geneva Convention.
Israel argued that it was freed from those obligations by the Oslo Accords, signed by Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the 1990s, that allocates responsibility for medical care provision to the Palestinian Authority.
According to PA figures, about 450,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have received a COVID-19 vaccine so far, of which just over 270,000 have received two doses. The population of both regions is between 4.5 million and 5 million people.