Israel reaches deal to buy COVID-19 vaccine from Italy

Jewish state also expects to receive Moderna vaccine from the US, and human trials on its own vaccine start on November 1

A doctor shows a prospective vaccine for prevention and of coronavirus infection. (iStock)
Illustrative: A doctor shows a prospective vaccine for prevention and of coronavirus infection. (iStock)

Israel has reached a deal to purchase a future Italian coronavirus vaccine, the Foreign Ministry announced Thursday.

The agreement was reached while Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hosted his Italian counterpart, Luigi Di Maio, for the first time for talks in Jerusalem.

“I thank the government of Italy for its agreement to transfer Israel doses of a vaccine for coronavirus and hope that soon we can renew tourism between the countries,” Ashkenazi said in a statement from his office.

Italian biotech firm ReiThera is currently developing a COVID-19 vaccine and started human trials in August.

Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi attends the annual Municipal Innovation Conference in Tel Aviv, February February 19, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to the statement, Ashkenazi and Di Maio also signed cooperation agreements on education and culture and discussed “regional strategies” and the budding commercial and tourism ties emerging in the wake of Israel’s recent normalization with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan.

“The Abraham accords are a window of opportunity to renew talks with the Palestinians in order to find a just and lasting solution of peace and mutual respect,” Ashkenazi said. “Unfortunately, the ones who continue to refuse to take advantage of the window of opportunity is the Palestinian Authority leadership.”

Ashkenazi said that he has asked Di Maio, who is set to visit Ramallah on Friday, to try and persuade PA leadership to return to the negotiating table with Israel.

The Defense Ministry announced this week that Israel has begun mass-producing a potential coronavirus vaccine ahead of human trials set to begin November 1 which will continue through the spring before it can receive approval for full use.

Israel is producing a domestic vaccine as a backup plan while it also conducts negotiations with pharmaceutical firms further ahead in the development process to receive doses when they become available.

In June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had signed a deal with Moderna for a future coronavirus vaccine, and last week Moderna’s Israeli chief medical officer Dr. Tal Zaks, predicted the Jewish state would receive its COVID-19 vaccine before June 2021

Illustrative: A lab technician processes blood samples for COVID-19 vaccines research, Miami, Florida, September 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Taimy Alvarez)

Aside from the Italian government and Moderna, Israel has also reportedly been in contact with Russia and China to possibly use their vaccines if they prove effective.

As of Thursday morning, the number of active cases in Israel stood at 11,914. Among those infected, there were 464 in serious condition, with 199 on ventilators. According to the Health Ministry, 2,494 people have died of the virus in Israel.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report. 

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