Palestinians to investigate 'expired' Pfizer jabs delivered by Israel
The Palestinian Authority (PA) will create an independent committee to look into a botched Pfizer vaccine deal with Israel amid accusations Tel Aviv passed expiring doses to Ramallah in apparent contravention of the terms of the agreement.
The body's creation was ordered by Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh after pressure from civil society , The New Arab's Arabic-language service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported on Monday, and following accusations the PA was politicising the issue.
Israel gave the PA doses of the Covid-19 vaccine on Friday that were "about to expire", a statement run by Palestine's official Wafa news agency said. The deal was cancelled and the Palestinian health ministry sent back 90,000 jabs to Israel on Sunday.
The premier said in a speech in Ramallah on Monday said that four individuals would be in charge of the committee's efforts.
These are: Independent Commission for Human Rights chief Ammar Al-Dwaik, Bassem Khoury, on behalf of Palestine's pharmaceutical industry, Nizam Najib for the World Health Organization, and Salwa Al-Najab for the civil health sector.
Shtayyeh also said the Israeli deal, plus the committee's findings, will be made available to the public.
"There are no changes happening to the vaccination programme in any of the health centres operating in the governorates which are still welcoming those wishing to be vaccinated," Shtayyeh said on Monday.
"I call on all citizens to take [the vaccine] for their safety."
The Palestinian premier said Palestine is recovering earlier than most other countries in the region, since there were just five currently sick with Covid-19 in the West Bank.
Under the terms of the deal, Israel was to send around one million Pfizer jabs to Palestine, according to a statement from new Israeli premier Naftali Bennett's office, plus the ministries of health and defence.
The PA was then to allow Israel the same number back upon receipt of a vaccine shipment from Pfizer in September or October, the message explained.
Shtayyeh noted that the deal was aimed to help roll out vaccines quicker to hit the 70 percent inoculated mark, allowing life to start up again.
This is the World Health Organisation's upper bound percentage for the proportion of people needing to be vaccinated to achieve heard immunity, according to Reuters reporting.
The Palestinian health ministry said it will work on renegotiating the deal with its Israeli counterparts and Pfizer while ensuring future batches are safe and have appropriate expiration dates.
Israel has previously been criticised over its attitude towards Palestinians and coronavirus vaccines.
Amnesty International said Israel was "in violation of its obligation as [an] occupying power" to fight epidemics when it refused to immunise Palestinians it rules over.
Israel decided to vaccinate only the 100,000 Palestinians who work in either Israel or illegal West Bank settlements.