Israel Reveals the Patients' Data It Gives Pfizer as Part of COVID Vaccine Deal

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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An employee opens a freezer containing Pfizer's vaccination against the coronavirus as he works at SLE, a unit of Teva Pharmaceuticals, near Shoham, Israel January 4, 2021.
An employee opens a freezer containing Pfizer's vaccination against the coronavirus as he works at SLE, a unit of Teva Pharmaceuticals, near Shoham, Israel January 4, 2021.Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Israel has committed to provide Pfizer with a large amount of data on its coronavirus vaccination campaign but not information that would identify individual recipients of Pfizer's vaccine, according to the contract the government signed with the pharmaceutical company and the Health Ministry made public on Sunday.

In disclosing the agreement, the ministry obscured portions of the contract relating to commercial information such as the amounts to be paid to Pfizer. The move to make the contract public is intended to increase transparency and remove any concern that Pfizer would obtain personal medical information about Israelis who have been vaccinated.

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Israel has vaccinated a greater proportion of its population than any other country and most of the vaccine used has come from Pfizer.

According to the agreement, the information given to Pfizer is in line with what senior Health Ministry officials have stated and includes general and not personal information. Israel agreed to provide weekly information on the number of patients infected and hospitalized, the number of serious cases, the number on ventilators and the number of deaths, as well as information on the vaccination campaign. The pharmaceutical company is also receiving data on recipients of the vaccine by age, gender and demographic background. 

In the event that information is accidentally provided that makes a patient's identity identifiable, the contract requires Pfizer to treat it as confidential and return it. The contract also bars the U.S. pharmaceutical firm from attempting to obtain information on patients' identities from the data it receives. 

Two weeks ago, following Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that Israel would serve as a "model country" for Pfizer, the Health Ministry made it clear that "the data is being shared with the public on a daily basis, and that same information will be transferred to Pfizer." The ministry's director of public health, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Pries, also gave assurances later that the public should not be concerned about violations of privacy and that the ministry was committed to making public all of the data that it was providing to Pfizer.

In November, at a cabinet meeting, Health Ministry Yuli Edelstein said that the release of details of contract with Pfizer would be "criminal." Prime Minister Netanyahu then added that "there are sections that cannot be disclosed" and that the supply of the vaccine should not be endangered.

For Pfizer, the statistical information on members of the public receiving the vaccine in Israel, which has a highly diverse population, may provide important data on the vaccine's impact on sub-groups that could not have been obtained in the trials conducted by the company itself.

Officials at Israel's health maintenance organizations have given their own assurances that neither Pfizer nor any outside party has access to the HMOs databases. Prior to the signing of the agreement with Pfizer, the data on vaccination of Israelis was fed into a separate national database with information beyond what the HMOs have.

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