Israel Eyes COVID Pill Deal; Experts Set to Decide on Vaccinating Children

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A child is being inoculated against coronavirus in central Israel last week.
A child is being inoculated against coronavirus in central Israel last week.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that Israel is examining the purchase of COVID-19 antiviral pills ahead of the national coronavirus task force's final review of the recommendation to vaccinate children aged five-11.

During a cabinet meeting, Bennett said that he instructed health officials to explore the possibility of purchasing Pfizer's antiviral pill.

"If the drug will be approved," Bennett said, "it will be another significant tool to manage the pandemic."

CEO Albert Bourla said in an interview on Friday that Pfizer is in discussions with 90 countries over its new COVID-19 pill.

Following last Thursday's public discussion to recommend the vaccination of children aged five to 11, a final review will be held on Wednesday after which Israel's coronavirus taskforce is expected to issue its recommendation.

Israel recorded 194 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as the R number – the number of people each COVID carrier infects – rose to 0.87, up from last week's rate of 0.73. Despite the rise, Health Ministry data continues to suggest that the pandemic in Israel is receding.

In addition, 178 coronavirus patients are currently in serious condition, of whom 127 are in critical condition and 111 are on ventilators.

Pfizer released on Friday the trial data for its experimental antiviral pill, shown to reduce hospitalizations or death for adults at risk of developing severe disease by 89 percent.

The results appear to surpass those seen with Merck & Co Inc's pill molnupiravir, which was shown last month to halve the likelihood of dying or being hospitalized for COVID-19 patients also at high risk of serious illness.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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