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Shmuel Shapira, leader of embattled homegrown Israeli vaccine effort, to step down

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, speaks with the director of the Institute of Biological Research, Prof. Shmuel Shapira, at the laboratory in Ness Ziona on October 19, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, left, speaks with the director of the Institute of Biological Research, Prof. Shmuel Shapira, at the laboratory in Ness Ziona on October 19, 2020. (Ariel Hermoni/ Defense Ministry)

Prof. Shmuel Shapira, the head of the Defense Ministry’s Biological Institute who has been the driving force behind the efforts to develop an Israeli COVID-19 vaccine, will reportedly step down unexpectedly in May, further casting doubt on the future of the vaccine effort.

Shapira, 66, could have retained his post for at least another year until he reaches retirement age, and even then could have extended his tenure, Haaretz reports.

The announcement comes as the vaccine production has been significantly lagging behind its international competitors, and as the vast majority of eligible Israelis have already gotten the Pfizer inoculation.

The Israeli vaccine is still deep in the trial phase, and many of its volunteers have stopped their involvement to get the Pfizer shot.

It isn’t clear who will replace Shapira, the report says.

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