Honduras and Guatemala confirmed Thursday that they received COVID-19 vaccines donated by Israel.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez said an Israeli donation of 5,000 doses — the first coronavirus vaccines received by the Central American country — will be used for the immunization of health workers.
“Today is a historic day of hope for the health of the Honduran people. It is a moment long awaited by all. Thanks to the people of Israel and our friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the donation of 5,000 vaccines,” he said on Twitter.
— Juan Orlando H. (@JuanOrlandoH) February 25, 2021
The government of Guatemala was also very pleased. It has been particularly critical of the lack of effectiveness of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX, from which the country has not received a single vaccine despite having paid in advance.
“I thank Israel for its valuable cooperation and donation of 5,000 doses to deal with COVID-19,” Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Thursday. “We reaffirm the historical ties of friendship that unite our people.”
Within hours of the vaccines’ arrival in the countries, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced that it was halting plans by Netanyahu’s government to send vaccines abroad.
“I welcome the decision to freeze the transfer of vaccines to other countries,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Twitter.
Netanyahu announced Wednesday that he had decided to send surplus vaccines to allied nations. Israeli media reported that the country would send shipments to countries with close or growing ties with Israel as a reward for their diplomatic support.
While Guatemala opened its embassy in Israel in Jerusalem last year, the government of Honduras said it intended to open one soon. Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its capital.
Israel is one of the world’s leaders in vaccinating its population. Nearly half its population has already received one dose. Meanwhile, neighboring Palestinian territories are struggling to secure their own vaccine supplies.