Israel was set to dispose of 80,000 COVID-19 vaccines due to expire at midnight, Channel 12 news reported Saturday evening.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were said to be worth NIS 6 million ($1.8 million).
According to the network, which said that Pfizer refused to extend the expiration date, Israel has not previously thrown out such a high number of vaccines during the pandemic.
“The State of Israel is managing its stock of vaccines while paying attention to the expiry of the product,” the Health Ministry said in response.
“The state signed confidentially agreements and cannot reveal the exact amount of vaccines,” it added.
Earlier this month, Israel shipped some 700,000 doses set to soon expire to South Korea, as part of a deal that will see Seoul send fresh vaccines in exchange later this year.
The expiration of the doses came a day after Israel began vaccinating people older than 60 with a third vaccine dose amid a resurgence in infections, with the number of serious cases topping 200 on Saturday for the first time since mid-April.
“I call on anyone in this age group to go get vaccinated,” Health Ministry director-general Nachman Ash said Saturday.
He urged Israelis not to get serological tests to check their level of coronavirus antibodies before deciding to get a shot.
“There is no need for this. A test like this may cause confusion,” he said.
He also called those who are not fully vaccinated or who haven’t yet gotten a shot at all to do so.
“The vaccine is the most effective tool in our war against the pandemic and in lowering the morbidity figures,” Ash said.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy said he and his wife Norit will get their third doses on Sunday.
“I call on Israelis who can get vaccinated and meet the criteria determined by the Health Ministry to go get vaccinated. The vaccine saves lives, prevents serious morbidity and is the only way we can all continue to lead a routine life,” Levy, 71, said in a statement.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett — who, at 49 years old, is too young for a third dose — asked Levy and Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut on Friday to get booster shots, after President Isaac Herzog and his wife did so.
Also on Friday, Bennett told healthcare executives that the government’s goal is to vaccinate 1.5 million Israelis above the age of 60 in the next eight days.
In an interview Saturday with Channel 12, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz defended Israel’s decision to become the first country to approve third vaccine shots for the elderly rather than waiting for US regulators, as it did before beginning to use coronavirus vaccines last year.
“Any wait or delay in making the decision would cost lives. More people would develop serious morbidity or die,” he said.
Horowitz, who, at 56, is too young to get a third dose, said his parents will get booster shots.
He was also asked about the prospect that the government will impose further restrictions to stem the rise in cases.
“My policy is a balanced policy,” he said, stressing his aim was to balance the fight against the virus with allowing Israelis to work and go to school. “I don’t want a lockdown and will refrain [from] a lockdown at all costs. There were terrible consequences.”
On Friday, Ash said no additional COVID restrictions were slated to be implemented in the immediate future and that “the vaccine is our solution to make it out of the pandemic, so it is important that everyone who can goes and gets vaccinated.”