Jul 6, 2021 - Health

Israel, South Korea agree to swap 700,000 COVID vaccines

Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are pictured at a Magen David Adom mobile vaccination centre during a campaign by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipalit

Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination centre in the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality. Photo: Jack Guex/AFP via Getty Images

Israel and South Korea have agreed to exchange 700,000 Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Israeli Prime Minister's office announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The deal marks the world's first COVID-19 vaccine swap, and could prove to be a template for other governments, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The big picture: Under the agreement, Israel will immediately ship 700,000 Pfizer doses to South Korea where they will be inspected by officials and then distributed by the end of July, the Israeli government said in a press release.

  • South Korea will then ship 700,000 already-ordered Pfizer doses to Israel in September or October.
  • Israel's shipment of doses is expected to arrive in South Korea on Wednesday, per the Journal.
  • Israel has made other attempts to swap its current batch of Pfizer doses, which is set to expire at the end of the month. A previous deal with the Palestinian Authority fell through over concerns regarding the nearing expiration date.

The big picture: After a successful start to its vaccination rollout, more than 55% of Israelis are fully vaccinated. But demand has slowed in recent weeks, per the Journal.

  • Meanwhile, South Korea has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases but is struggling to secure more doses of the vaccine, Reuters reports.
  • The new deal will enable South Korea to ramp up its vaccination campaign and inoculate workers in sectors that have high contact with other people, per Reuters.
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