Netanyahu: Israel Poised to Receive First Pfizer COVID Vaccines in January

Prime minister says ‘final obstacle’ in talks removed, but deal has yet to have been signed ■ Health minister says deal to be signed Sunday ■ Company threatened this week to cancel allocation of 7 million vaccine doses set aside for Israel

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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A bus stop ad for COVID-19 testing is shown outside Pfizer world headquarters in New York, Nov. 9, 2020.
A bus stop ad for COVID-19 testing is shown outside Pfizer world headquarters in New York, Nov. 9, 2020. Credit: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

The government will soon sign a deal to purchase Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine after “the final obstacle” was removed during talks with the pharma giant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Thursday.

According to Netanyahu, Israel will begin receiving doses of the vaccine, which has not yet been approved for general use, in January, with the number of doses increasing by the month. He added that the government also planned to buy other companies’ coronavirus vaccines.

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Later on Thursday, Israel's Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said the deal would be signed on Sunday.

Earlier Thursday, the prime minister said in a statement that he and Deputy Attorney General for International Law Roy Schöndorf had spoken with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and the company’s legal adviser this week “to remove all barriers and bureaucratic difficulties and sign an agreement.”

Pfizer announced earlier this week that its vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech SE, was effective in at least 90 percent of cases in its third stage of clinical trials. Each vaccination will require two doses, and doses must be stored in very low temperatures. According to Pfizer, its production ability for 2021 will be about 1.3 billion doses.

Israel has already signed a purchase agreement with Pfizer competitor Moderna, and as TheMarker reported on Thursday, health officials ignored signals from Pfizer representatives in the country two months ago regarding the need to work out a deal. An agreement was then delayed because of Israeli intransigence about relatively minor clauses. Netanyahu changed his position only after Pfizer threatened this week to cancel its allocation of doses set aside for Israel, constituting some 7 million doses.

Also Thursday, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said that “even in the most optimistic scenarios, a serious amount of vaccines won’t arrive in Israel this year.”

In an Army Radio interview, Edelstein added: “I don’t know, to tell you the truth, when we will actually begin getting the vaccine ... but we must not, heaven forbid, reach a situation in which there is a vaccine in other countries and not in ours.”

He further said that “even after there is a vaccine, we will continue to live in the shadow of the coronavirus, and I advise getting used to the fact that some of these things, like social distancing or a mask, will likely remain with us.”

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