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Israel uses COVID-19 vaccines for diplomacy

Posted February. 25, 2021 07:33,   

Updated February. 25, 2021 07:33


Israel has announced that it will share excess supply of COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, with priority given to countries that have agreed to expand their diplomatic presence in Jerusalem, a region of conflict.

According to Reuters, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday that Israel will send partial supplies of vaccine to Palestine and other countries that have requested supplies. The prime minister’s office did not specify the countries’ names, but Reuters reported that Guatemala, Honduras and the Czech Republic had been included.

The Czech Republic announced that it had already received a small supply of the vaccines from Israel. Guatemala and Honduras will also be receiving 5,000 doses of vaccine respectively. These three countries have recently relocated their embassies to Israel to Jerusalem or have expressed interest in doing so. Israel has been focusing efforts to attract foreign embassies to Jerusalem in order to get recognition as the nation’s capital.  

More than 4.46 million out of 9.30 million Israeli people have been vaccinated. Israel signed contracts with Pfizer in November last year for 8 million doses under the condition to hand over the its vaccine data to the pharmaceutical company and launched vaccinations in December.

This is not the first time Israel has used vaccines as means for diplomacy. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that Israel has agreed to confidentially purchase Russian COVID19 vaccines on behalf of Syria and exchanged two Israelis arrested in Syria with two Syrians detained in Israel.  

Meanwhile, the Philippines has announced that it would be able to dispatch health care workers to countries in exchange for vaccine supply. Currently the Philippines caps the number of overseas health workers to 5,000 per year, but it will ease the regulations to countries that supply vaccines. Local media and global news agencies have reported that the country has requested vaccine supply to the UK and Germany, where many Filipino health care workers are dispatched to.

Hyun-Seok Lim lhs@donga.com