Israel is sending 700,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to South Korea in exchange for a future shipment of the jabs, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday.
In a statement, Bennett said Israel will transfer the Pfizer vaccines to South Korea in an effort to inoculate more of the Asian nation’s citizens this month. South Korea will return the same number of doses to Israel as soon as September, he added.
“This is a win-win deal,” Bennett said in his statement. The agreement will “reduce the holes” in the vaccine’s availability.
Bennett said the agreement, which he personally negotiated with Pfizer CEO Albert Burla, is the first of its kind between Israel and another country. The Israeli vaccines still need to be tested after their arrival in South Korea, he added.
The deal comes a few weeks after the Palestinian Authority, which has limited autonomy over areas of the occupied West Bank, called off a deal to receive 1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Israel. The Palestinians contended that the vaccines were too close to expiring and didn’t meet their standards.
The South Korean government had no immediate comment.
fizer Inc.’s vaccine was less effective at keeping people from getting the coronavirus in Israel in recent weeks, but it continues to provide a strong shield against severe Covid-19, according to government data.
The vaccine protected 64% of people against the illness between June 6 and early July, down from a previous 94%. The drop was observed as the delta variant was spreading in Israel, the Health Ministry said. It also coincided with the lifting of virus restrictions at the start of June.
Despite the indications of increased infections, the data also showed the shot is protecting people from severe illness. Its effectiveness at preventing hospitalization fell to 93%, according to the Health Ministry, compared with at least 97% in an earlier government study.
Delta, which first emerged in India, is spreading around the globe as governments race to inoculate people. The mutation has forced some countries to delay or rethink plans to loosen curbs on businesses, activity and travel.
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