Reports by Israeli media come after the Palestinian Authority called off an agreement whereby Israel would transfer 1 million doses of similarly expiring vaccines to Palestine in exchange for a similar number of new ones later this year.

A Palestinian health worker prepares to vaccinate a member of education staff with a dose of Sinopharm vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as schools set to reopen partially, in Tubas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 6, 2021.
A Palestinian health worker prepares to vaccinate a member of education staff with a dose of Sinopharm vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as schools set to reopen partially, in Tubas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 6, 2021. (Reuters)

Israel will destroy 800,000 coronavirus vaccines that are nearing their expiration date if no country agrees to purchase them, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) reported.

Although KAN did not specify on Monday which company the vaccines belonged to, Tel Aviv had previously purchased Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

On June 18, Israel agreed to send at least 1 million Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines to the Palestinian Authority under a deal in which the authority would transfer an equivalent amount of doses to Israel from its purchased quantity from Pfizer scheduled to be received in September or October.

However, the Palestinian Authority canceled the deal because the doses from Israel appeared to have expired and did not meet the technical criteria of the Health Ministry.

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Palestinians called off vaccine exchange

Palestinian officials had come under heavy criticism on social media after the vaccine exchange agreement was announced, with many accusing them of accepting subpar vaccines and suggesting they might not be effective.

Israel, which has fully reopened after vaccinating some 85 percent of its adult population, has faced criticism for not sharing its vaccines with the 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

The disparity has played out across the globe as the bulk of vaccines went to wealthy countries. As those countries have made progress containing their own outbreaks, they have recently begun pledging supplies for poorer countries that were left behind for months.

The new Israeli government said it would transfer Pfizer vaccines that are close to expiring, and that the Palestinian Authority would reimburse it with a similar number of vaccines when it receives them from the pharmaceutical company in September or October.

“We will continue to find effective ways to cooperate for the benefit of people in the region,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid tweeted after the deal was announced.

COGAT, the Israeli military body that coordinates civilian affairs in the occupied territories, said it had coordinated the delivery of the first 100,000 doses to the West Bank.

The Palestinians portrayed the agreement differently, saying Pfizer had suggested the transfer as a way of speeding up its delivery of 4 million doses that the PA had already paid for in an agreement reached directly with the drug company.

“This is not an agreement with Israel, but with the Pfizer company," Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said, before the deal was called off.

At a press conference, she said health officials who inspected the vaccines found they “did not meet standards and so we decided to return them.”

Vaccines from Pfizer, authorised in the US in December, typically have a six-month shelf life. It wasn’t immediately clear when the 1 million batch that Israel was to give the Palestinians was produced.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies