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‘I feel great’: Israel’s first vaccine volunteer heads home from the hospital

24 hours after receiving the first dose at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Segev Harel is discharged, hopes ‘we will bring the vaccine to Israel and to the whole world’

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

The first volunteer in trials for Israel’s new coronavirus vaccine has been released from the hospital, saying he feels “great.”

Segev Harel, a 26-year-old undergraduate student, was injected at the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan on Sunday, and was kept in the hospital for 24 hours of observation.

In his first English-language comments, he said: “Hello everybody, good morning, thank you all for your support.

“I’m here after spending the night in Sheba Medical, and now I’m going home and I feel great, and I hope we will bring the vaccine to Israel and to the whole world.”

The vaccine, named Brilife, was developed by the Israel Institute for Biological Research. Some 15 million shots are already being produced, in the hope that the trial goes smoothly.

Eytan Ben-Ami, a Sheba doctor who is part of the team directing the trial, told The Times of Israel: “The first patient was kept in hospital for 24 hours to observe him in case of any adverse effects and there were none.

“Everything has been really smooth. It’s very early in the process, but until now, everything is going according to plan.”

Segev Harel, the first volunteer in Israel’s coronavirus vaccine trial. (Sheba Medical Center)

Soon after Harel left Sheba, the second volunteer to receive a shot, Aner Ottolenghi, started the hospital discharge procedure. Ottolenghi, a 34-year-old doctoral student, had spent the night at Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he was given the shot.

A statement from Hadassah said that he “felt great this morning and spent the night without any symptoms or issues due to the vaccine. He says that he is sleeping well.”

The first phase of the clinical trial is expected to last roughly a month and will involve some 80 volunteers ages 18 to 55.

The second phase in December will test roughly 1,000 volunteers ages 18 to 85 at eight hospitals around the country. In this phase, volunteers with preexisting conditions will be allowed to participate.

If that larger group responds well to the vaccine and antibodies are detected in their blood, injections will then be given to some 30,000 people in April or May 2021. If the vaccine works well and there are no significant side effects, it will then be approved for full use in the general population.

Last Monday, the Defense Ministry announced that Israel had begun mass-producing the potential coronavirus vaccine and plans to distribute it to both Israelis and Palestinians if it is approved for use.

The director of the state-run Israel Institute for Biological Research, Shmuel Shapira, said it will produce 15 million doses in the first stage and estimated the shot could be ready by July.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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