South Korea and Israel announced a vaccine swap Tuesday that will send 700,000 expiring COVID-19 doses to the Asian nation as it tries to accelerate its rollout.
Israel, a world leader in vaccinating its population, will receive the same amount of Pfizer-BioNTech doses later this year, likely between September and November.
Officials described the innovative exchange as a win-win that will bolster South Korea’s lagging vaccine rollout — rather than letting doses expire — while ensuring late-2021 supply for Israel in the face of variant threats and talk of boosters.
South Korea has fully vaccinated about 10% of its population compared to nearly 60% in Israel.
“This exchange arrangement was made based on the thoughts shared by all countries, including South Korea and Israel, that even a single drop of a vaccine should not go down the drain,” South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said in a press briefing.
The deal comes after the Palestinian Authority rejected 1 million doses of Pfizer vaccines from Israel, saying they were too close to expiration. The Palestinians will wait for a delivery of 4 million doses from Pfizer later this year.
South Korean officials asserted they are receiving a separate batch of doses. They will use them to vaccinate vulnerable persons around Seoul, which is seeing outbreaks, according to the Yonhap News Agency.