Israel reached an agreement with Pfizer on Saturday night to expedite the company's next shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, which will be delivered on August 1, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Saturday was supposed to be the final day on which Israelis were able to get the first dose of the vaccine, as the country's Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine stockpile is set to expire in three weeks.
However, the August 1 delivery will allow the vaccines to be administered in a continuous fashion, so that whoever receives the first injection will be able to complete the process. The vaccines that were supposed to be saved for second doses in three weeks will be able to be given sooner. The new deliveries that will arrive in the beginning of August will be used as second injections for those who received their first shot beforehand.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus cabinet will meet Tuesday to discuss the next steps in dealing with the pandemic.
Israel signed a deal last week to provide about 700,000 expiring doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine to South Korea at the end of the month.
As part of the deal, Israel will receive in September and October the same number of Pfizer vaccine doses as were ordered by Seoul, Bennett said.
The deal followed the Palestinian Authority's announcement last month that it was canceling a similar deal with Israel that would have entailed the delivery of about a million expiring vaccine doses, saying that the doses were too close to expiring and did not meet the PA's standards.
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The Health Ministry said last week that the Pfizer vaccine has dropped to 64 percent effectiveness in preventing infection in Israel as the delta variant continues to spread across the country. The ministry added that the vaccine is 93 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and severe symptoms.
However, experts have expressed doubt regarding the analysis of infection rates in Israel in recent weeks and the ministry's epidemiology team has also questioned it. Nevertheless, health sources believe that the inoculation's efficacy against the delta variant is much lower than initially presumed.
The models used by the Health Ministry have been called into question by health professionals. "There are enormous methodological challenges in properly assessing the efficacy of the vaccine from local outbreaks," one health expert said.
The main research findings until now, including those by British health authorities published in the medical journal Lancet, show that two weeks after the second dose is administered, the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is 88 percent effective against the delta variant. That is only slightly less than the 93 percent for the alpha variant.
The delta variant, however, is considered to be one and a half times more contagious than the alpha, and twice as infectious as the original version of the virus.