Sharing the Vaccine Wealth

The Prime Minister’s office announced that Israel intends to use its supply of COVID-19 vaccines to help other countries in need in exchange for diplomatic backing. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to distribute nearly 100,000 total doses among 15-20 countries they “have friendly relations with,” one senior official said. The list is incomplete and unofficial so far, but it is rumored to include Chad, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Equatorial Guinea, and other African nations with diplomatic ties with Israel; Italy; the Czech Republic; Guatemala; Honduras; Hungary; the Maldives, San Marino, and the Palestinian Authority (PA), The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post reported. Though the Oslo Accords hold the PA responsible for its own population’s healthcare, the Israeli government, facing criticism from foreign media, has already sent thousands of vaccines to the PA.

The move is not without controversy. Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who Netanyahu did not consult, took exception to being left in the dark. “The fact that Netanyahu is trading the vaccines that Israeli citizens paid for with their tax money, without any accountability, shows that he thinks he’s running a kingdom and not a country,” Gantz tweeted. The doses, which Israel purchased from Moderna, will not be sent to other countries until Israel completes its vaccination of its own population, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi explained. Four and a half million Israelis (approximately half of Israel’s population) have received their first vaccine dose, and 3 million (approximately one third) have received both doses.

Sharing these coveted vaccines seems to be a sign of good will, but even when Israel helps, the critics seem to find something to harp on. It’s unclear exactly if Netanyahu expects anything in return for these doses, but it’s safe to assume he doesn’t plan to ask for anything drastic or manipulative. Gratitude would be a natural reaction to receiving these vaccines as a gift, so hopefully this situation will end up being a win-win for all involved.