07:59 GMT18 April 2021
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    Over half of Israel's population of nine million has been administered COVID jabs from Pfizer and BioNTech, giving the country among the highest per capita vaccination rates in the world.

    Pfizer's bosses have temporarily halted coronavirus vaccine deliveries to Israel over unpaid bill for the last 2.5 million doses, the Jerusalem Post reports, citing senior officials at the pharmaceutical corporation.

    The shipment of some 700,000 doses that were expected to arrive in Israel on Sunday was reportedly delayed for an unspecified time.

    Israel’s Army Radio correspondent also claimed on Monday that Pfizer executives have dubbed the country a “banana republic” as they fumed over Tel Aviv’s inability to sort out their bills amid ongoing the political impasse.

    10 million Pfizer jabs have been administered to Israel's population, fully vaccinating some 4.8 million people; these have been fully paid for, the Post says. But the Jewish State has yet to pay for the latest batch of 2.5 million of doses, which the government reportedly ordered in an agreement with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

    Blame Game

    On Monday, the Israeli government was set to convene to approve the purchase of an additional 30 million doses, worth some $1 billion, but the meeting was cancelled by Defence Minister Benny Gantz, over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reluctance to approve his permanent appointment as justice minister. Gantz was temporarily appointed as acting justice minister but his term ended on 2 April.

    Vials labelled COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine and a syringe are seen in front of the Pfizer logo in this illustration taken February 9, 2021
    © REUTERS / Dado Ruvic
    Vials labelled "COVID-19 Coronavirus Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in front of the Pfizer logo in this illustration taken February 9, 2021

    Health Minister Yuli Edelstein reportedly spoke to Gantz on Sunday in a bid to persuade the defence minister to overcome differences and move forward with the COVID vaccines purchase.

    But according to sources at Gantz’s office, the delay in payment for 2.5 million doses should solely be blamed on the Health Ministry, as the purchase has been approved already.

    Replying to the Post’s request for comment, Pfizer said that the company has fulfilled all its obligations to Israel under the initial November 2020 contract.

    Pfizer has now been “working with the Israeli government to update the agreement, to supply additional vaccines to the country”, the company said.

    “While this work continues, shipments may be adjusted," Pfizer’s statement reads.

    Insiders from Gantz’s office claim that the country has already purchased some 27 million vaccine doses, including from Moderna and AstraZeneca, which “should suffice for the near future”.

    Over $785 million has been spent on the vaccination campaign so far, the health ministry unveiled in March, including for those doses that are set to arrive later this year.

    The price tag for the precious jabs has not been disclosed due to confidentiality issues, but the Post says that Israel apparently paid more per vaccine dose than any other country.

    Israel, where 54% of the population has already been fully vaccinated, boasts among the highest vaccination rates per capita, joined by Gibraltar and the Seychelles.

    coronavirus, COVID-19, Pfizer, Israel
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