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Pfizer stops shipping 700,000 COVID vaccines to Israel after country reportedly fails to pay

Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

  • Pfizer has halted a shipment of 700,000 COVID vaccines scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday.

  • Pfizer stopped the shipment when Israel failed to pay for the last 2.5 million doses sent there.

  • Israeli media reported that Pfizer staff called Israel a “banana republic” amid fears of further payment delays.

  • Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.

Pfizer has halted a shipment of 700,000 COVID vaccines due to arrive in Israel on Sunday following the country’s non-payment of the remaining 2.5 million doses.

According to the Jerusalem Post, a shipment of 700,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine was due to arrive in Israel last Sunday but has been delayed indefinitely, pending payment.

The Jerusalem Post wrote that local Israeli media outlet Army Radio was running reports that Pfizer staff called the country a “banana republic”, commenting on its political instability. The outlet also reported that senior Pfizer officials feared the Israeli government – currently headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – might fail to pay.

Netanyahu’s government launched a mass vaccination campaign after paying for its first 10 million vaccines, but supplies began to run out in February.

According to Reuters, the Israeli government has sought to purchase about 36 million additional doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which would cost the country about 3.5 billion shekels (about $ 1.05 million). But those plans – along with a motion to approve funds to pay for the 700,000 COVID vaccines – were halted when Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz litigated politically over judicial appointments.

Israel has so far recorded more than 834,000 cases of COVID and 6,243 deaths.

Pfizer responded to the Post’s questions about the vaccine delay, saying the company made all of its deliveries in accordance with an agreement signed last November that provided an undisclosed number of COVID vaccines for some 2.6 billion shekels (785 million of dollars).

“The company is currently working with the Israeli government to update the agreement, to provide additional vaccines to the country. While this work continues, shipments may be adjusted,” the company said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post.

About 5.27 million Israelis over the age of 16 received a first dose of the vaccine, while 4.84 million people took their second injection. This makes Israel one of the countries with the highest vaccination rates, as more than half of its population of 9.3 million have taken at least one vaccine.

Insider has reached out to Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health for their comment.

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