The first shipment of Pfizer’s promising antiviral COVID pill landed in Israel on Thursday afternoon.
Israel is one of the first countries in the world to receive the drug, known as Paxlovid, which lab tests have shown to be very effective against the Omicron variant.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the pills’ arrival “an important addition to our toolbox in fighting the pandemic” that “will help us get through the coming apex of the Omicron wave.”
The first shipment consisted of several tens of thousands of pills. The medication is said to cost the country around $530 per patient, though it isn’t yet clear what the price will be for Israeli patients.
Bennett had said earlier this week that the shipment was expected on Wednesday; the reason for the delay was not immediately clear.
“We’re the first in the world [outside the United States] to receive shipments of the pills,” Bennett told reporters on Tuesday.
He said the decision to heavily limit air travel to stop the spread of the Omicron variant “bought us five weeks of time, and gave us an advantage over other nations, who are fighting the Delta and Omicron variants simultaneously.”
According to Kan, the first shipment would consist of 20,000 doses of the pill. Israel has signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase 100,000 doses overall, according to Hebrew media reports.
Pfizer currently has 180,000 treatment courses available worldwide, with roughly 60,000 to 70,000 allocated to the US. The company said it expects to have 250,000 available in the US by the end of January.
Israel’s Health Ministry granted emergency approval to the medication on Sunday, a week after the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) did the same.
Paxlovid is designed for at-home treatment of high-risk COVID-infected patients over the age of 12. Pfizer told the FDA that in a 2,250-patient trial, the pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by 89 percent when given to people with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 within three days of symptoms. Less than 1% of patients taking the drug were hospitalized and none died at the end of the 30-day study period, compared with 6.5% of patients hospitalized in the group getting a dummy pill, which included nine deaths.
Paxlovid has only proven effective if given within five days of symptoms appearing.
The treatment consists of three pills taken twice a day for five days. Two of the pills are Paxlovid and the third is a different antiviral that helps boost levels of the main drug in the body.
Army Radio said Thursday that Israel is also in negotiation with AstraZeneca over the purchase of its new COVID-19 antibody drug.
The Health Ministry said Thursday that 3,947 cases were confirmed a day earlier — nearly triple the number last Wednesday, when just 1,418 cases were confirmed.
In addition to the nearly 4,000 new cases, a further 1,059 diagnoses since midnight pushed active infections past 20,000 — more than double the figure recorded a week earlier.
Alongside the rising morbidity figures, there was an increase in serious cases from 84 on Wednesday morning to 94 on Thursday morning. Of those patients, 46 were defined as critical. The majority of seriously ill patients are unvaccinated.
Serious cases have not yet seen a similar surge, and have largely plateaued over the past few weeks. Experts expect that to change soon as the outbreak spreads more widely, despite the milder illness believed to be caused by Omicron.
Header: Webbing covers labels on a heavily-wrapped shipment of Pfizer’s antiviral COVID-19 pill, Paxlovid, on arrival at Ben Gurion International airport, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)