Pfizer halts shipment of 700,000 COVID vaccines to Israel after the country reportedly failed to make payment

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Pfizer BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine. Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
  • Pfizer 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 Insider's homepage for more stories.

Pfizer halted a shipment of 700,000 COVID vaccines scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday following the country's failure to pay for the last 2.5 million doses shipped there.

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 was delayed indefinitely, pending payment.

The Jerusalem Post wrote that local Israeli media outlet Army Radio was circulating reports that Pfizer staff were calling the country a "banana republic," commenting on its political instability. The media outlet also reported that senior officials at Pfizer were concerned that the Israeli government - currently led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - would not come through with payment.

Netanyahu's government rolled out a mass vaccination campaign after it paid for its first 10 million vaccines, but the supply began to run short in February.

According to Reuters, the Israeli government sought to buy around 36 million more Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses, which would cost the country around 3.5 billion shekels (around $1.05 billion). But these plans - as well as a motion to approve funds to pay for the 700,000 COVID vaccines - were halted when Netanyahu and defense minister Benny Gantz got into a political tiff over judicial appointments.

Israel has recorded over 834,000 COVID cases and 6,243 deaths to date.

Pfizer responded to the Post's queries on the vaccine delay, saying that the company had completed all its deliveries per an agreement inked last November that supplied an undisclosed number of COVID vaccines for some 2.6 billion shekels ($785 million).

A Pfizer representative told Insider that the company is currently working with the Israeli government to update the agreement, to supply additional vaccines to the country.

"While this work continues, shipments may be adjusted," the Pfizer spokesman said.

Around 5.27 million Israelis over 16 have received a first dose of the vaccine, while 4.84 million people have taken their second shot. This makes Israel one of the countries with the highest inoculation rates, as over half its population of 9.3 million people have taken at least one vaccine shot.

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

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