Netanyahu Says He Spoke With Putin About Purchasing Russian COVID Vaccine

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Ben-Gurion International Airport, November 2020.
Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Ben-Gurion International Airport, November 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he had spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the possibility of purchasing Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, dubbed Sputnik V.  

Speaking at a press conference, Netanyahu also referenced news of effective vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, saying: "All this won't happen overnight, but we are not talking about years – we're talking about months. So we are already seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

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Earlier this month, Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center said it had ordered 1.5 million doses of the Russian vaccine. 

The Russian vaccine has been in phase three clinical trials since August and has already been given to tens of thousands of people. Hadassah’s branch in Moscow has both given the vaccine to people and monitored them afterward, “and the results and safety we’ve seen have been very good,” Rotstein said.

Rotstein stressed that until the phase three trial ends and the data has been analyzed, it’s impossible to know if the vaccine will be effective in preventing the virus. But based on the data so far, he said, “There’s a good probability that the vaccine is safe. And there’s a reasonable probability ... that it’s also effective.”

Both the development of the Russian vaccine and Russia’s unusual decision to administer it to its own citizens, even before the phase three trials ended, have been widely criticized worldwide. It was only tested on several dozen people before being more widely administered.  But Rotstein insisted that much of this criticism stems from the American-Russian battle over who will develop a vaccine first.

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu said he had instructed Health Minister Yuli Edelstein in June to sign a deal to purchase a vaccine from U.S. company Moderna. "My goal is to bring as many vaccines, from as many sources, for as many citizens as possible – and as quickly as possible," he said.

Moderna said on Monday its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial, becoming the second U.S. company in a week to report results that far exceed expectations. Together with Pfizer Inc's vaccine, also shown to be more than 90% effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, two vaccines could be authorized by the United States for emergency use in December with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available by the year's end.

Israel has already signed a deal for one million vaccine doses from Moderna, valued at $238 million. It also signed agreements with Arcturus and recently with Pfizer

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