Israel will pay a premium price for the millions of COVID-19 vaccines it has ordered from US-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer, over 40 percent more than the US government or the European Union, Channel 13 news reported Sunday.
In addition, other countries have already closed deals for hundreds of millions of vaccine units from the company, and the under the terms of the contract with Israel, Pfizer has made no commitment to a delivery schedule, according to the report.
After Pfizer announced last Monday that the still-experimental vaccine it is developing with Germany-based BioNTech had so far shown 90% effectiveness against the coronavirus in trials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a crusade to secure the product for Israel, making at least two phone calls to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. By Friday Netanyahu announced that Israel had closed a deal.
As part of the agreement with Pfizer, Netanyahu said Israel would receive 8 million shots, 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.
Israel has deals with two other pharmaceutical firms for vaccines, and is developing its own version as well, but had reportedly not been intensively engaged in talks with Pfizer before the trial results announcement, putting it at a disadvantage.
Israel agreed to pay $56 per Pfizer vaccine immunization, $28 for each of the two shots required, Channel 13 reported.
Last week, a European Union official told Reuters that the bloc could order 200 million units of the experimental vaccine and had negotiated to pay something less than the $19.50 that the US has already agreed to pay per shot.
The figures show that Israel would pay at least 43% more than the US or the EU for the vaccine.
In addition, Pfizer has reportedly made no commitment to meet the schedule. If there are any production limitations, or delays in the shipment, Israel will not be compensated for an advance down payment, the report said.
Israel was late joining the line for the Pfizer vaccines. Aside from the EU deal, the US has already ordered 100 million units, Canada tens of millions, and Japan 120 million.
A further complication for Israel is that the Pfizer vaccine must be stored, including in transit, at -70 Celsius and the country’s health system currently does not have the kind of mobile freezer units needed to distribute the vaccines, the station said.
The Ynet news site reported on Friday that the deal does not obligate Pfizer to supply the vaccines but only states that it intends to do so “according to circumstances.”
The report further said Israel will pay a NIS 120 million ($35 million) advance, and another NIS 680 million ($202 million) when the first vaccines arrive. Pfizer will then provide hundreds of thousands of vaccines every month for the duration of 2021. Contrary to Channel 13, Ynet reported that if it fails to supply the vaccines, Pfizer will return Israel’s advance.
On Sunday, the CEO of BioNTech, which is working with Pfizer on the vaccine, said they hope to be able to deliver 300 million units by April next year, ramping up supplies by next winter.
Israel has already paid a total of NIS 405 million ($120 million) to Moderna, which is in phase 3 of vaccine development, and Arcturus, which is at an early stage in testing, out of about NIS 1 billion ($295 million) set aside for purchasing vaccines, according to the Haaretz daily.
Besides the agreements with Moderna and Arcturus, Israel has also inked a deal with Italian biotech firm ReiThera to supply a vaccine if and when developed and is in talks with Russia to purchase a vaccine it is developing.
Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center earlier this month said it had preordered 1.5 million units of the Russian vaccine, which is also in Phase 3 testing and which Moscow asserted this week has so far shown to be 92% effective.
Israel is also developing its own vaccine, with trials beginning last month.