U.S. drugmaker Moderna Inc said on Monday that Israel's Health Ministry had authorized its COVID-19 vaccine, marking the vaccine's third regulatory authorization and the first outside North America.
"Israel's Health Ministry has secured 6 million doses and first deliveries (are) expected to begin in January," Moderna said in a statement.
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Health Ministry sources confirmed that while the deliveries will begin this month, they only know of a few tens of thousands of doses expected to arrive at this point. Meanwhile, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein denied Tuesday that the vaccines would be arriving so early: "No one in the Health Ministry has any idea about advancing the Moderna vaccines."
Moderna has received authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine in the United States and Canada and additional authorizations are currently under review in the European Union, Singapore, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Israel has begun to vaccinate its population at one of the quickest rates in the world, and it aims to reach all vulnerable citizens by late January. Authorities started vaccinations on December 19 using the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
The Bank of Israel said Monday it expects the economy to rebound quickly in 2021 if the country's fast start to vaccinating people against COVID-19 is maintained.
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Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said Tuesday that about 1,370,000 Israelis have received the first dose out of two of the Pfizer vaccine, adding that almost 146,000 were vaccinated on Monday.
Edelstein, however, said full efficacy of the vaccine will be reached only after the administration of the second dose. He added that in the meantime, Israel's rate of infection is spiking, saying that at the moment a full and short lockdown is the only option to deal with the virus.
The Health Ministry said on Monday that more than 1.2 million Israelis received the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. On Sunday, a total of 134,000 Israelis were vaccinated across the country.
Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish addressed the possibility that Israel's stock of vaccines would deplete, saying there are enough rations to inoculate at-risk population, but that the rate of vaccinations would drop over the coming weekend.
Kish said the government is working tirelessly to secure more vaccines, and "doing everything" to push forward the arrival of additional rations, which should arrive near early February.
Moderna said separately on Monday it would produce at least 600 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in 2021, up by 100 million doses from its previous forecast. The company was working to invest and hire in order to deliver up to 1 billion doses this year.
Moderna has so far supplied about 18 million doses to the U.S. government as part of a deal for 200 million doses. It has also signed a deal with the Canadian government for 40 million doses.