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Israel to receive Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as early as December – report

Medical personnel to be vaccinated first, with general population possibly facing winter with no immunization

People walk by the Pfizer headquarters on November 9, 2020, in New York City. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images/AFP)
People walk by the Pfizer headquarters on November 9, 2020, in New York City. (David Dee Delgado/Getty Images/AFP)

Israel is expected to receive up to half a million doses of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine against the coronavirus as early as December, one month earlier than originally hoped for, Channel 12 reported Monday.

According to the unsourced report, the country would receive anywhere between 200,000 and 500,000 doses of the vaccine and will devote them primarily to those working in the medical field, while the general population would not be vaccinated this winter.

The report also quoted a senior Health Ministry official as saying that the early arrival of the vaccine would have a “positive” effect on Israel’s battle against COVID-19 this winter.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase coronavirus vaccine shots, days after the US pharmaceutical firm said data suggested its vaccine was 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19.

The offices of British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC in Macclesfield, England, July 21, 2020. (Paul Ellis/AFP)

As part of the agreement with Pfizer, Netanyahu said Israel would receive 8 million doses of the vaccine, enough to inoculate 4 million Israelis. Netanyahu expressed hope that Pfizer would begin supplying the vaccine in January, pending authorization from health officials in the United States and Israel.

Last Friday, Pfizer announced that it was asking US regulators to allow emergency use of its vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could end in limited first shots being administered as early as next month.

The request came days after Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech updated its data on the effectiveness of the vaccine, announcing that it appeared to be 95% effective at preventing mild to severe COVID-19.

Pursuing another avenue to procure vaccines, Netanyahu announced Friday that Israel was also close to signing a deal with AstraZeneca to purchase “millions” of doses of its vaccine.

If signed, it would be the third deal signed by Israel to receive vaccinations, following similar deals with Pfizer and Moderna. Israel has also been in talks with Russia to receive its Sputnik V vaccine, though some experts have questioned its opaque certification process.

However, none of the deals guarantees a deadline for the arrival of the vaccines, and with mass global demand, it is still not clear how many doses Israel will get, and when.

Israel has also been working on a home-grown vaccine, though it is currently only in phase 1 trials and its development is expected to take months longer than the foreign candidates. Channel 12 reported Friday that it will likely be available to the public this summer.

Illustrative: An elderly man receives a vaccine. (Prostock-Studio via iStock by Getty Images)

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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