Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Friday that Israel has signed an agreement with Pfizer Inc. to supply its coronavirus vaccine as early as Januray 2021.
“This is a great day for the State of Israel on our way to victory against the coronavirus,” he said at a press briefing at the Israeli army’s headquarters in Tel Aviv.
According to Netanyahu’s statement, should Pfizer’s vaccine pass all stages to trial and be approved, the U.S. company will provide eight million doses. The vaccine requires two doses per person, and so four million Israelis should be able to get vaccinated, close to half of the country's 9 million population.
Israel already had agreements with two drug companies developing coronavirus vaccines: Moderna, which is in stage three of trials, and Arcturus, which is still in the first stage. The government has allocated a billion shekels ($298 million) towards acquiring vaccine doses, and already paid Moderna and Arcturus nearly half that sum.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech confirmed a deal was forthcoming in a statement on Thursday but did not disclose financial details, and a spokesman for Pfizer confirmed final signing was set to take place on Friday.
"Our goal remains to create a global supply of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine for many people around the world, as quickly as we can," said Sean Marett, the chief business officer at BioNTech, in a statement.
Pfizer earlier this week said initial data from its late-stage trials showed the vaccine to be more that 90 percent effective, putting it in the lead among major pharmaceutical companies racing to develop a COVID-19 vaccine to help stop the pandemic that has claimed over 1.2 million lives globally. The vaccine still has to be approved for use by the Israeli Health Ministry and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
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The vaccine, however, needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, a potential barrier in developing countries where finding the necessary storage chain could be an obstacle.
The prime minister stressed that Israel has “more agreements with other companies… The aim is to allow all Israelis get vaccinated.”
He also called on people to remain cautious and diligent. “It will be a few months before we get the vaccine,” Netanyahu said. “We’re in this together, and we’ll come out of this together.” Health Minister Yuli Edelstain also urged Israelis “not to be complacent” and keep abiding by the government’s regulations, intended to curb the spread of the disease.
On Thursday, Edelstein said: “Acquiring the vaccine is huge, wonderful news for the citizens of Israel. The Health Ministry is making every effort to acquire different vaccines, so that every citizen can be vaccinated. But until that happens, we must follow the regulations.”
Reuters contributed to this report.