Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last night revealed the main reason why Israel has received so many vaccine doses so quickly, mainly from Pfizer but also from Moderna. It is a reason, which will allow Israel to lead the world and exit the COVID-19 pandemic in another two and a half months.
In effect, Israel will act as a large world testing laboratory, with the results from this huge research serving to set vaccination strategies in the rest of the world and also assisting the pharmaceutical companies in continuing R&D for coronavirus vaccinations and other treatments.
According to a deal, of which the final details were agreed in a phone conversation yesterday afternoon, between Netanyahu and senior officials at Israel’s Ministry of Health and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and his senior executives, Israel will receive a weekly consignment of hundreds of thousands of vaccination doses, between 100,000 and 500,000, with more than 10 million doses received overall by the middle of March.
Israel has 9.3 million citizens, with almost two million under the age of 16, while hundreds of thousands more have already contracted COVID-19, recovered, and developed antibodies.
At the same time, Israel will receive more than 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine over the coming month, with the first consignment of 120,000 doses arriving yesterday.
In the agreement with Pfizer, Israel has committed to send the pharmaceutical company data and details especially gathered for them, including the consequences of the inoculations, side effects, efficacy, amount of time it takes to develop antibodies. according to different types of population, age, gender, preexisting conditions etc.
The agreement extensively details the various parameters that will be sent to Pfizer.
It was also agreed that in order to protect privacy, no details will be sent that would enable Pfizer to know the identity of those vaccinated, just their medical records, age and gender etc., for a giant research project.
The concept of Israel as a giant testing trial lab for COVID-19 vaccinations came from several sources. One of the researchers at the Israel Institute of Biological Research in Ness Ziona, which is developing Israel’s own vaccine, proposed that after the Phase III trial, if it was successfully completed, then it could be administered to large population groups in Israel as a kind of large scale trial.
Another source was a senior doctor at the Ministry of Health who proposed the idea of offering data for early delivery back in the fall during initial negotiations with the drug companies for procuring the vaccine. Another source was a World Health Organization official who during discussions with Israeli experts said that Israel would be an ideal country for early and efficient rollout of the vaccine and could instruct the world on how to do it.
During discussions in Israel’s National Security Council in November in which Netanyahu participated, the question arose of how to persuade the top executives of the pharmaceutical companies to sell to Israel first.
The first response was to talk to the Jewish conscience of Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla but after that the ability of Israel’s health funds to implement the vaccine drive swiftly and provide data about it was combined with the idea of Israel as a huge test lab.
According to a senior political source there were then discussions about who should bring up the idea with the CEOs of the pharmaceutical companies and it was eventually decided that it should be Netanyahu himself together backed up by a professional in the field.
After the idea was broached, Pfizer consulted with the WHO and the leaders of other countries. Pfizer representatives closely scrutinized Israel’s health system, asked their questions and were shown the quality of Israel’s data systems at the COVID-19 headquarters of the Ministry of Health.
They were impressed, among other things, between the cooperation of government ministries, laboratories and the IDF Home Guard on the issue of testing and the transfer of data. They carefully analyzed the structure of Israel’s health system and the role played by the health funds and their deployment. They asked to look closely at the computerized systems built by the IDF Home Guard for gathering data from those infected with Covid-19 and tracking their movements.
In early December, Israel received the good news that a huge first shipment would arrive before the end of the month, contingent upon FDA approval and the parallel approval by Israel. And so it was. The next consignments were not due to arrive until February and over the following three months. But Pfizer was very impressed with the success of the vaccination drive.
A senior WHO official told his counterpart in Israel’s Ministry of Health that they were astonished by the pace of distribution and the ability to channel the vaccinations correctly.
The official, who is German, spoke about the huge delays in his country where the federal government was not ready to delegate authority and every consignment of even a tray awaits for endless approvals and inefficient transportation.
The success of Israel’s first round of vaccinations brought about an agreement to speed up and bring forward the next consignments.
Netanyahu himself and senior Ministry of Health officials including director general Hezi Levy and others held talks with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and his team.
They showed them the numbers and promised that Israel would provide them with all the data required for the world’s campaign against the virus including the mutations.
In addition to sending all the data to Pfizer, it was also agreed that the WHO would also receive all the information.
A WHO delegation is expected in Israel in February to closely examine Israel’s vaccine distribution network as well as the impact of the vaccinations, side effects, and mainly the time taken for antibodies to develop, and the effects of the different vaccines will be compared.