Israel sharing some COVID vaccines with Palestinians, Honduras, Czech Republic

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel said on Tuesday it was giving small amounts of surplus COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinian-run territories as well as to several countries.

FILE PHOTO: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein attend the arrival of a plane with a shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines, at Ben Gurion airport, near the city of Lod, Israel, January 10, 2021. Motti Millrod/Pool via REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not name which countries in a statement announcing the move.

But an Israeli official told Reuters that Honduras – which said last year it intended to move its Israel embassy to Jerusalem – was among the recipients.

The Czech Republic confirmed it had received a small Israeli shipment.

Israel has been importing Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc vaccines. It has administered at least one Pfizer dose to almost 50% of its 9 million population in one of the world’s swiftest campaigns.

This month the Palestinians received an initial shipment of Moderna doses from Israel, helping kick off a limited vaccination programme in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.

While Israel has been vaccinating Palestinians in East Jerusalem, it had come under foreign criticism for not extending its campaign to the other Palestinian areas.

The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonmity, did not say how many or which vaccine Honduras would receive and the Honduran embassy in Israel did not provide comment.

The Central American country last year followed the United States in signalling its intention to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a diplomatic gain for Israel.

Israel regards all of Jerusalem as its capital, although that is not recognised by most countries. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, which Israel captured along with the West Bank and Gaza in the 1967 Middle East War, as the capital of a future independent state.

The Czech Republic has also received several thousand Moderna doses from Israel, Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek told reporters on Tuesday.

The donation comes after the European Union country’s president and premier sent letters to Israel requesting vaccine help.

The vaccines Israel has donated were a surplus built up over the last month, and they wil be used by the foreign recipients’ medical personnel, the statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

But appearing to temper potential expecations of wider donations, the statement added: “There is no expectation of a capacity to provide significant (foreign) assistance, at least before the vaccination campaign in Israel ends.”

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