Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is considering postponing the entry of tourists vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine to December 1, just a day before his scheduled Friday meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.
On Wednesday, Israel said it would allow Russian tourists vaccinated with Sputnik V to enter the country for the next two months.
Israel said that Russians who received the vaccine would be able to enter Israel on the strength of a blood test showing sufficient antibodies to the virus, rather than a PCR swab test.
But health officials recommended delaying recognition of the Russian vaccine upon the discovery of the new COVID-19 AY4.2 sub-strain in Israel.
The Sputnik V vaccine is not recognized by Israel, the World Health Organization, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Israeli officials told Haaretz that the decision to allow tourists vaccinated with Sputnik V had been the result of recent pressure from Russian officials. One official said the arrangement would be limited to two months in order to permit Russia to obtain WHO recognition for its vaccine, after which Israel would recognize Sputnik V fully.
Over 70 countries have authorized Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and it is now being tested by the WHO and the European Medicines Agency.
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Bennett recognized on Thursday a long list of COVID-19 vaccines also cleared for use by the UN World Health Organization, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and two Chinese vaccines. Russian authorities told Israeli officials that such approval or recognition is expected by January 1, two months from now.
Also on Thursday, Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz approved a new policy under which tourists who had received one of those vaccines would be allowed into Israel starting on November 1.
The plan, which was announced Thursday, stills needs the cabinet's approval.